New Zealand have pulverized Papua New Guinea 15-0 over two legs to earn the right to represent Oceania at the 2012 London Olympics Women’s Football tournament. An 8-0 win on home soil was followed by a 7-0 thrashing in Papua New Guinea, who had won the first stage of the qualifiers by beating Tonga 2-0. 

PNG goalkeeper Linda Bunaga prepares to perform a familiar role - picking the ball out of the net

The one-sided nature of the two-legged final is another example of New Zealand’s dominance in the region. Papua New Guinea had proved to be stronger than their Stage One counterparts Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu, but against New Zealand’s Football Ferns, they were outclassed. With only one qualifying berth up for grabs in the Oceania Confederation, it would have to take a minor miracle for one of the smaller countries to usurp heavyweights New Zealand. 

The competition provided by other teams in Oceania is also not representative of New Zealand’s opponents at the London Olympics. Despite his side’s convincing 8-0 win in the first leg, coach Tony Readings admitted “there’s definitely things we still need to work on.” The confidence gained from their straightforward qualification could well be misplaced if New Zealand find themselves leaving the Olympic tournament at the first hurdle. 

New Zealand players celebrate their comfortable qualification

Papua New Guinea coach Steven Mune remained upbeat, saying “I’m really impressed with our ladies’ performance” and praising his team’s defending as “just awesome”. It is a sad fact that almost every qualifying tournament like this will end with a young, talented team overcoming their rivals in the early rounds only to be humiliated by the more experienced New Zealand in the final – even Papua New Guinea’s best was nowhere near enough.

Although OFC somewhat improved the situation in these qualifiers by excluding New Zealand from the first round, thereby avoiding more one-sided, demoralizing games, the problems still remain. The Football Ferns will join their male colleagues in London, and although the men’s side endured a more challenging qualifying tournament, their progress was still inevitable. 

After their first leg victory, New Zealand captain Rebecca Smith grinned “8 goals: it’s pretty fun for the fans”. That may be true, but the rest of the Confederation’s teams don’t seem to be having much fun at all. 

Advertisements