Kukis go down in football friendlies

Thursday July 19, 2018 Written by Published in Soccer

The Cook Islands development women’s team lost both of their friendly matches played last week in Tahiti.

The national side lost to the hosts 1-3 and 0-2 in the friendlies, eyed as the buildup for the 11th edition of the OFC Women’s Nations Cup, which is scheduled to take place in New Caledonia from November 18 to December 1, 2018.

Cook Islands women’s team head coach Jason Stephens took over a young side with a few experienced hands on this tour.

Stephens said the tour provided an excellent opportunity to expose the players to international competition.

“We have chosen a real young squad, 10 players of which are 16 years of age, couple more under 19 years, and a few older heads. A few are new to the national set-up,” Stephens said before the tour.

“These two games will show if the players chosen belong at this level or above – players know that ultimately they are playing for places for November.”

After the two wins, Tahiti have set themselves up as a strong contender for this year’s OFC Women’s Nations Cup.

After a long hiatus, women’s football has slowly been making a return over the past two to three years in Tahiti, with a senior women’s championship and a U23 championship providing options for registered women’s footballers.

“In the first match we had a great first half and I was very pleased, but in the second half the Cook Islands came out a bit more aggressive,” Tahiti coach Stephanie Spielmann said.

“We needed to adjust to that. It made for a more heated match, but we’re here to work on the physicality of matches too. I think that it was a complete match in this sense, it’s really good for our preparations.

“We scored five goals in total and conceded one from a penalty in the first match. I’m happy, but we can do better.

“We could have managed the game without falling into the Cook Islands game.”

There will be 11 participating nations at the OFC Women’s Nations Cup and the winner of the competition will qualify for the FIFA 2019 Women’s World Cup and the Olympic Football Tournament in Tokyo in 2020.

The first stage of the competition will begin in August when Fiji, American Samoa and Vanuatu will meet for the last available spot in the group stage. The winner will join Tonga, the Cook Islands and the reigning New Zealand champions in Group B.

Tahiti have been drawn in Group A alongside OFC Women’s Nations Cup hosts New Caledonia, Samoa and Papua New Guinea.

            - Rashneel Kumar/OFC

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