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American Samoa wins OFC Women’s U-16 Championship Qualifying Opener

American Samoa women
Source: Oceania Football Confederation

Auckland, NEW ZEALAND — The road to the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2025 kicked off at Ngahue Reserve in Auckland with the first game of the three-match series to qualify a team for the Oceania Football Confederation Women’s U-16 Championship 2024 in Fiji this September.

Both sides lined up in a 4-2-3-1, as they acclimatized to the wet conditions and the rigors of the international game. The game’s pattern was established early, with American Samoa happy to utilize quick breaks on the counter attack, while Papua New Guinea were comfortable absorbing early pressure and picking their moments to advance into American Samoa’s half.

In the 13th minute Papua New Guinea captain Lisi Robert set the tone for her side with a great run from deep in midfield. Her slide ball to Stella Torobert seemed to set PNG up for a chance on goal, but she passed to Vira Gunemba when shooting may have been the better option.

Five minutes later at the other end of the pitch surface water came to the fore for Papua New Guinea, as Pritchard broke free of the PNG defense, easily confidently outpacing Faustina Worr. The forward came unstuck as the ball clung to the surface and the forward could only bend the ball wide of the PNG goal.

ASA seemed most likely to score via Pritchard, who on the half hour mark had an opportunity to open the scoring on the break, latching onto Maryjane Laima’s ball and outpacing the PNG defense comfortably, but again her shot bent too wide.

Papua New Guinea were unable to capitalize on the best opportunity of the half to take the advantage minutes before half-time, being awarded a penalty after April Sinowai was taken down. But Gunemba hit the crossbar with a well-struck but ultimately too high effort.

Recognizing the danger that Pritchard posed, Papua New Guinea began the second half attempting to stifle the number 10, who suffered a heavy fall after Worr came in with a strong tackle.

Minutes later though, she had the last laugh, winning the ball off Worr on the halfway line and then out-muscling and outpacing the PNG defender to finish in the 57th minute with an outstanding solo goal.

She almost doubled her tally minutes later after picking Serah Witu’s pocket and bearing down on Helina George’s goal, but for a last ditch intervention from the PNG defense.

Despite settling into good attacking combinations and searching for opportunities primarily through Gunemba, PNG were unable to convert their chances, while at the other end of the pitch goalkeeper George was key to keeping her side in the game, capping off a fine performance with a triple save in the 80th minute to again deny Pritchard and Wendolynn Tua.