August 20, 2010
AUCKLAND - The Football Ferns now know the course they need to navigate to reach the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011 after the official draw for next month's eight-team OFC Women's Nations Cup took place in Auckland today.
OFC Vice President Fred de Jong was on hand to conduct the draw at the OFC Headquarters along with Deputy General Secretary Greg Larsen, FIFA Development Officer Glenn Turner and Head of Competitions David Firisua.
The Oceania qualifiers will be held at North Harbour Stadium in Auckland from September 29 to October 8, coinciding with school holidays and preceding the All Whites' friendly match against Honduras at the same venue on October 9.
Hosts and defending champions New Zealand have been drawn in Group A and will meet Vanuatu, Cook Islands and Tahiti while Group B consists of Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Tonga.
The teams in each group will play each other once before the semi-finals on Wednesday 6 October featuring the winner of Group A against the second-placed team from Group B and vice versa.
The 3rd/4th place playoff and final will then take place on Friday with the champions progressing to the FIFA finals in Germany next June/July.
OFC General Secretary Tai Nicholas is delighted that a record number of teams will be involved in this year’s tournament and believes the future of the women’s game in Oceania looks bright.
“Having eight teams take part is very impressive,” Nicholas says.
“This means even more talented female players from around the Pacific will get to compete at the highest level in Oceania. It will give them the chance to test their skills against the best and provides a platform to progress in their careers.”
This year’s event will be the ninth edition of the tournament and hosts New Zealand will go in as overwhelming favourites.
The Football Ferns enjoyed a fairly straightforward path to the title during the last OFC Women’s Nations Cup in 2007, scoring 21 goals in wins over hosts Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Samoa and conceding just one.
In an ominous sign for their opponents, New Zealand coach John Herdman is likely to be able to call on the services of overseas-based stars such as Hayley Moorwood, Kirsty Yallop and Rebecca Smith.
Fans should also be able to check out the form of Ali Riley, just months after the 22-year-old was named 2009 OFC Women’s Player of the Year. US-based Riley has 34 caps for New Zealand and signed for Women’s Professional Soccer League team FC Gold Pride in January.
“It’s really exciting for us to be playing such important fixtures at home, and it’s exciting for the fans as well. We’ll be assembling our strongest team for the qualifiers including all those players now earning their living playing in the professional leagues of Europe and North America.”
The Football Ferns may face a tougher test of their abilities this time with other OFC countries teams putting more funding and resources into the women’s game.
The other teams are also looking ahead to the 2011 Pacific Games, to be held in New Caledonia next August, and will be keen to do well in Auckland as part of that long-term plan.
Original story: OFC Media with additional content by NZF.