Fiji bask in Pacific breakthrough
Fiji complete surprise run to their first OFC Women’s Nations Cup final
Emphatic semi-final win over four-time Pacific Games’ champions PNG
Winner of Saturday’s final to qualify for France 2019
Fiji and New Zealand reached the final of the 2018 OFC Women’s Nations Cup on Wednesday with comprehensive last-four victories.
Holders New Zealand progressed with a confident 8-0 win over tournament hosts New Caledonia. Less expected, however, was Fiji’s stunning 5-1 comeback victory over perennial Pacific Games’ gold-medallists Papua New Guinea.
While three-time reigning champions New Zealand will start as warm favourites for Saturday’s decider, this tournament has marked a milestone moment for Fijian women’s football.
This years final will be the first time that a current OFC member other than New Zealand or PNG, will feature in the continental decider.
Fiji's path to their first-ever final has been a relatively convoluted one. They firstly survived a tense preliminary round in August to be the only qualifiers from the four-team event.
Marika Rodu’s well-organised side then defied expectations over the past fortnight with group stage wins over Cook Islands and Tonga, before their sensational victory over PNG ensured a new finalist.
“Coming out of the qualification stage we didn’t expect to come all this way,” said Rodu.
“We imagine that we can only improve football in Fiji, right now it is just only an infant.
“Our structure is still young, but to see these girls come out and prove themselves here in the region is quite amazing.”
With New Caledonia reaching their first semi-final since 1983, this year’s edition of the tournament marks a levelling out of the playing field among the continent’s smaller nations.
On offer in Saturday’s final is a ticket to the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 ™, as well as the 2020 Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo.