New Zealand U-23s through to Pacific Games football final
New Zealand's U23 men's football team is through to the Samoa 2019 XVI Pacific Games final after defeating Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea is also through as both teams are the top two sides in group A.
New Zealand go through to Saturday's final, with the last spots to be taken by either New Caledonia or Tahiti, and the winner of Fiji v Tuvalu.
A heated first-half ended with New Zealand on the board with a 1-0 score, watched by many fans from both countries.
Papua New Guinea fought hard in the second half and after a red card, finished the game one man short.
After an almost scoreless second half, New Zealand scored the final goal ending the match 2-0.
“We came into this game knowing it was going to be really tough,” said New Zealand U-23’s goal keeper Conor Tracey.
“We analysed them very deeply, our coaches really helped out a lot with that, and on the pitch it really showed.”
In other matches, Vanuatu and Tonga men's teams took the field for the first game of the day. Vanuatu started strong scoring 4 goals in the first 30 minutes of the game.
Their momentum continued into the second half of the game with a strong offensive presence. Vanuatu won the match with a score of 14-0.
Head coach for Vanuatu, Paul Munster, said: “I'm feeling good and confident with the boys, it was just waiting for that first goal. We knew once we got our first goal, many, many would come [...] Now it's about recovering mentally, physically, and getting prepared for the [next] game.”
Rain continued to pour throughout the men’s match between Solomon Islands and American Samoa.
Solomon Islands came out strong, leaving the score at 3-0 by the end of the first half.
The race was on, as goal after goal was scored for the Solomon Islands. American Samoa remained scoreless leaving the final 13-0 with the Solomon Islands dominating the pitch.
The first women’s match of the day saw Papua New Guinea beat Vanuatu 6-1.
In the women's matches, Papua New Guinea kicked the game into motion against Vanuatu with a strong score of 6-1.
The Solomon Islands v Cook Islands game had everyone from spectators to the teammates on the edge of their seats with anticipation. The final score was a tough 2-1 with the Cook Islands taking home the victory.
Judith Kuipers, head coach of the Cook Islands team, was pleased with the result.
“We had a mission, we still have a mission and you never know how it’s going to be, but I think they did a great job so far."
She said her team's performance was "maybe a surprise to a lot of teams, which is actually good, I think."
Seven of her players are 19 or younger, with the youngest being 15 years old.
"They played like grown ups. They worked so very, very hard until the end. Normally after playing 2-0 is fine, but then playing 2-1 is unlucky. Something can always snap, they were not in the game and they can do better. There is positivity for the next game. Nevertheless they kept on working.”
Tonga trounced American Samoa 12-0.