The OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022 begins this Wednesday, July 13 in Fiji with Samoa v Tonga kicking us off in the opening game at the HFC Bank Stadium in Suva.
Due to the nature of the competition, where eight of the nine teams involved will advance from the Group Stage, all nations taking part will harbour ambitions of being crowned champions of Oceania.
The winners will also have the chance to advance to the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ by entering the Play-Off Tournament hosted in Auckland and Hamilton, New Zealand, from February 17-23 next year.
So, what can we expect from the teams at the OFC Women’s Nations Cup?
Three Polynesian nations will ignite a friendly rivalry in Group A.
Samoa are led by former Wellington Phoenix star Paul Ifill who will no doubt look to use his own experience of playing in an international continental tournament with Barbados to his team’s advantage.
They start their campaign against Tonga, who finished third in 2007. Team Mataliki’s preparation for the tournament involved a trip to Australia where they challenged themselves against top local opposition and World Cup 2023 participants the Philippines.
The Cook Islands round out the group and will take heart from the knowledge they defeated Tonga in the Group Stages four years ago and have a blend of domestic and New Zealand-based talent.
Papua New Guinea arrive as the favourites to claim overall glory. The highest-ranked nation picked up impressive international friendly wins over the Seychelles, Singapore and the Solomon Islands in preparation for the tournament. After previously finishing as runners-up on three occasions, this might finally be the year PNG claim the title.
Whilst only their third appearance at the competition Tahiti have high hopes for their exciting squad assembled by head coach Stéphanie Spielmann. A tour of France in February helped to shape the current unit made up of domestic players and those plying their trade in France and the United States.
For Vanuatu this will be their first OFC Women’s Nations Cup since 2010 and their squad is a mixture of experience and youth as they look to build toward a bright future in the women’s game.
Host nation Fiji will undoubtedly be aiming to go one better than the 2018 edition of the OFC Women’s Nations Cup – where they lost to New Zealand in the final.
They will be hoping home soil advantage and the guidance of experienced American head coach Lisa Cole can give them the edge. Their pre-tournament preparations would suggest they are a team to be reckoned with – after convincing friendly wins over Tonga and the Cook Islands.
New Caledonia impressed as hosts four years ago, reaching the semifinals for the first time after beating Samoa and Tahiti in the Group Stage.
While the Solomon Islands, led by men’s team legend Batram Suri, have set their sights on at least a run to the semifinals.