11 Jul 2017

Sport: PNG play down talk of U20 World Cup repeat

10:01 am on 11 July 2017

Papua New Guinea are keeping their expectations in check going into the Oceania Under 19 Women's Football Championships in Auckland this week.

Six teams are vying for one qualifying spot for next year's FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in France.

PNG took part in their first FIFA tournament last year after hosting the Under 20 Women's World Cup in Port Moresby.

They were eliminated at the group stage after conceding 22 goals in defeats by Brazil, Sweden and North Korea.

The PNG Under 20 women's team line-up before their World Cup opener against Brazil.

PNG prior to their World Cup match against Brazil last year. Photo: PNG Football Association

Coach Rachel Wadunah's team face hosts and tournament favourites New Zealand first up this morning.

Without the benefit of automatic qualification this time, Wadunah was realistic about what she wants her side to achieve.

"Our goal is to make sure that we be very competitive," she said.

"We know New Zealand at this point, that everybody is picking New Zealand to beat Papua New Guinea. We're coming as underdogs and what we are trying to do is make sure we give our best performance and make sure we try and enjoy this game."

She said PNG needs to stick to the game plan against New Zealand.

"It's a big challenge but what we are doing is making sure they know what to do. The big thing is if they can implement everything that I've told them, then we should be looking good," she said.

"They are very strong, they are very fast. They try to get the ball out on the wings.

"We have got to be very careful on that. We just have to be very compact and make sure we don't allow the ball to go forward and into our goal. "

Samoa finished second behind runaway winners New Zealand at the last regional championships two years ago and open their campaign against New Caledonia this afternoon.

Assistant coach Phineas Young said they were defensively strong but just need to work on their communication, with players from Hawai'i, American Samoa and Samoa all in the squad.

"Our strength is our backline and our forwards we are pushing them hard to try and communicate but I think our strength is at the back. We have a very good back four," he said.

Young is confident that they can make an impact at the tournament but admitted they may need a bit of 'divine intervention'.

"We will be depending on our Holy Father to help us out so I think we are here on a mission. You never know what is going to happen in football. We are going to test the real golden fire."

Tonga and Fiji will also go head to head in the opening round, with the eventual champion determined in a round-robin format, with no knockout matches.