Favourites New Zealand have sent out a warning to their rivals for a place in the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup by kicking off their qualifying campaign with a remarkable 17-1 win over Tahiti in wet conditions this afternoon.
The defending champions were expected to have too much quality for the Francophones in their opening match of the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship in Apia, Samoa but even coach Leon Birnie will have been pleasantly surprised by the margin of the victory, which included an amazing seven-goal haul for Kelli Brown.
Even at this early stage, Brown will now take some beating to the tournament’s golden boot mantle, particularly if she can show anything near the same net-bulging form in the remaining Group A matches against New Caledonia and Samoa. But team mates Arabella Maynard and Grace Wisnewski are already hot on her heels after also enjoying a memorable day in front of goal, both players notching hat-tricks while half-time substitute Maggie Jenkins struck a brace.
The other goal scorers were Maya Hahn and Aniela Jensen, who rounded out the goal rampage by grabbing one each.
Brown did not take long to sharpen her sights, effectively winning the match for New Zealand within the first ten minutes with a quick-fire hat-trick and adding another just a few moments later to make it 4-0 early on. That put a shell-shocked Tahiti all but out of the contest but they did then hit back, Heipua Koheinui firing a long-range shot past the reach of New Zealand goalkeeper Georgia Candy.
That was as good as it got for Tahiti though and Candy was then left with little else to do as New Zealand took total control. Brown went on to score twice more in the first half while Maynard also netted on two occasions before Wisnewski and Hahn helped the Kiwis reach double figures by the break.
Soon after the restart, Maynard completed her hat-trick and was left in a three-way fight for the match ball when Wisnewski joined her and Brown in doing likewise. Jenkins made an immediate impact off the bench by also scoring just a couple of minutes after half-time but the Tahiti defence then became more resolute, keeping New Zealand out until the 72nd minute when Jenkins hit her second.
It looked like that’s how it would stay as the clocked ticked towards injury time but Brown still managed to squeeze in her seventh before Jensen, who had entered the fray just past the hour, completed the rout with one of the last kicks of the game.
“It was a good start,” Birnie said.
“We came in there with some anxious girls – it is their first time coming to a tournament and putting the silver fern on – so to get three points at the end of it was good.”
Despite the high-scoring nature of the win, Birnie felt there is still room for improvement
“There’s definitely some areas to work on. I think physically Tahiti had the better of us and that’s something we’re going to go away and work on,” he said.
“In possession, I thought our movement at times was a little bit slow and if we can move quicker in front of the ball we’ll be able to open up teams. That’s something we’ve worked on in the past and need to build on moving forward.”
Having swept aside Tahiti in such impressive fashion, Birnie’s side will now prepare to take on another French-speaking nation in New Caledonia. The second match of New Zealand’s Group A campaign takes place on Tuesday at the J.S. Blatter Football Complex in Apia from 1pm (NZT).
Tahiti 1 (Heipua Koheinui 13’)
New Zealand 17 (Kelli Brown 3’, 5’, 10’, 12’, 41’, 45’, 88’, Arabella Maynard 17’, 21’, 52’, Grace Wisnewski 38’, 50’, 53’, Maya Hahn 45’ + 2’, Maggie Jenkins 47’, 72’, Aniela Jensen 90’ + 1’)
New Zealand: 1. Georgia Candy (GK), 3. Anneka Mittendorff (c), 4. Hannah Mackay-Wright, 5. Amy Waters, 6. Grace Wisnewski (17. Aniela Jensen 61’), 7. Kelli Brown, 8. Maya Hahn (9. Margot Ramsay 46’), 11. Arabella Maynard, 12. Macey Fraser, 15. Gabrielle Rennie, 16. Jayda Stewart (10. Maggie Jenkins 46’)
Substitutes not used: 2. Shannon Trebes, 13. Rylee Godbold (GK), 14. Mackenzie Barry, 18. Britney Cunningham-Lee
OFC U-16 Women’s Championship – Qualifiers for 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup
(J.S. Blatter Football Complex, Apia)
New Zealand vs New Caledonia
Tuesday 8 August, 1pm (NZT)
New Zealand vs Samoa
Saturday 12 August, 4pm (NZT)
Tuesday 15 August
Friday 18 August