SPORTS

Lessons From Noumea

For years, New Zealand has dominated the region’s football space – in both the men’s and women’s categories. That dominance was re-affirmed on Saturday with the heavy 8-0 defeat of
03 Dec 2018 10:25
Lessons From Noumea
The Vodafone Fijian women’s football team after the final loss against New Zealand in Noumea, New Caledonia on December 2,2018. Photo: OFC Media

For years, New Zealand has dominated the region’s football space – in both the men’s and women’s categories.

That dominance was re-affirmed on Saturday with the heavy 8-0 defeat of the Vodafone Fijian women’s football team in the OFC Nations Cup final in New Caledonia.

In many respects, Fiji’s loss was expected.

There is a notable gulf between the two countries in terms of experience, resources, sports infrastructure, scientific knowledge and more.

The manner in which they were dismantled – twice by the same team in the tournament – was not expected.

Still, Fiji deserve praise for defying the odds to reach its first-ever final.

The young team’s exploits against the tops sides in the region is something football fans can be proud of.

 

RODU’s PLAN

Head coach Marika Rodu had been monitoring the Kiwis from day one, knowing they were Fiji’s opponents in the final game of pool B.

He rested the bulk of his squad in that 10-0 loss, having already secured a place in the semi-final with impressive displays against Tonga and Cook Islands.

Fiji beat Papua New Guinea comfortably in the semis, which was a milestone achievement.

Rodu’s plan to have fresher players against the Melanesian rivals seemed to have worked.

But it backfired in the final, as the Kiwi’s easily exposed the vulnerabilities and inexperience of the Bula Girls.

Rodu should not have conceded defeat so easily in pool play, especially when PNG was beaten with relative ease.

His squad is largely made-up of rookie players in desperate need of exposure against teams like New Zealand.

Chances to play two games against a side ranked 20th in the world within a space of a few days are rare, so it felt pointless and short-sighted to rest players.

Fiji’s young women footballers had already exceeded expectations by reaching the final.

 

BRIGHT FUTURE

The team has shown enough flair in the final, and also the tournament as a whole, to inspire confidence about the future.

Led by Luisa Tamanitoakula, Cema Nasau and Trina Davis, the team created a few chances against the professional Kiwi outfit.

But a lack of confidence and direction was clearly visible.

Against a well-organised team, you could almost see the young players looking to the touchline thinking ‘what are we doing, what’s the idea here?’

It was encouraging to hear the coaches talking about a long-term plan to turn this team into a champion side following the win against PNG.

With attention soon turning to next year’s Pacific Games in Samoa, the trick now is to not second-guess their own philosophy.

 

-Edited by Leone Cabenatabua

Feedback: sheldon.chanel@fijisun.com.fj



Fijisun Ad Space


Get updates from the Fiji Sun, handpicked and delivered to your inbox.


By entering your email address you're giving us permission to send you news and offers. You can opt-out at any time.


Tower Insurance
Advertise here
Covid 19 - SPC
Fiji Sun Instagram
Subscribe-to-Newspaper