Despite finishing pointless during the group phase in the Youth Olympic Football Tournaments, the four losing sides of the boys and girls competitions - Vanuatu, Zimbabwe, Papua New Guinea and Trinidad and Tobago - can still hold their heads up high as they enter Monday’s fifth-place play-off.
The girls from Trinidad and Tobago meet Papua New Guinea in the day’s early game, seeking to prove themselves as the host nation to next month’s FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup, while the boys of Vanuatu and Zimbabwe meet in the alter game, with both sides determined to play for their pride.
Under former national team defender Etienne Mermer, Vanuatu have, on the whole, shown themselves to be well organised at the back. In the opener against Bolivia they only allowed the adventurous South Americans to convert two of their numerous chances, and against Haiti it was only a brief lapse in concentration that saw them throw away a one-goal lead, conceding two late goals in a space of three minutes. But finishing remains a problem for the Oceania side, who were punished for their inability to pack a punch in each of the two games played.
This can also be said of Zimbabwe, who dominated the second half of the opening game against Singapore but squandered too many opportunities and ended up losing 3-1. They went on to showcase their creativity against Montenegro but once again their lack of composure in front of the goal cost them dearly as they were edged out 2-1. "Our players must be more clinical when the scoring chances come," coach Dumaza Dube told FIFA.com. "They have to maintain concentration throughout in both defence and offence to win the last game."
Physically, one of the smallest sides of the tournament, Papua New Guinea enter this concluding game aiming to prove that size is not everything, and in doing that they will look to emulate the great teamwork they showed when they nearly held Iran in the opener. With six players from their U17 side, coach Michael Robinson’s side will also hope their experience will go some way to upsetting their rivals.
His opposite number, coach Marlon Charles, thinks differently. After losing narrowly to Chile and Equatorial Guinea, he is urging his players to play with aplomb and confidence. "We played against the tournaments’ finalists during the group stage and the results could have been different had our players kept cool-headed," he told FIFA.com. "I hope the players have learned how to control their play and we are looking to finish the tournament with a win."
Did you know?
One of the region’s pioneers in the women’s game, Papua New Guinea, participated in Oceania’s qualifying competition for the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup China 1991™.
"The tournament means a lot for our young players. They have gained experiences and exposure and have learned how to win a match as well as how to accept defeat." Dumaza Dube, Zimbabwe coach