The Tongan women’s national football team means business in the OFC Nations Cup. They are in Australia to realise what is needed to win the championship and earn a spot in the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The OFC Nations Cup will serve as the qualifier for the world event.
The Australian High Commission in Tonga made the trip for the Tongan women successful with a grant. The Tonga squad flew out to Brisbane on Wednesday, April 20, before heading to their base in Sydney the following day.
Tonga will spend a total of three weeks in Sydney, where they will face two international friendlies against the Philippines, and games against local academy sides.
They will then travel back to Brisbane for the final week of the camp, with another game potentially on the cards in Queensland, before flying back to Tonga on Wednesday, May 18.
The opportunity to gather as a team has been a long time coming for Tonga. The group have not trained since January 15 due to the impact of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami, followed by COVID-19 related lockdowns.
Therefore, there was some understandable rust in their first game of the training camp against tough opposition. Tonga lost badly 16-0 to the Philippines – who have already qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ – in their first friendly match, and went down again 5-0 in a more respectable display on Saturday night.
As Tonga’s head of women’s football Adelaide Tu’ivailala explains, the results were expected and not important. Much-needed match fitness is the main goal from the fixtures during their Australian stay.
“This is part of our plan in our final preparation for the upcoming OFC Women’s Nations Cup is to conduct a high-performance training camp out of Tonga,” says Tu’ivailala.
“This camp in Sydney will form a critical component of the team’s preparation efforts.”
As well as the friendly fixtures, Tonga’s women will be going through tactical training sessions and individual skill sessions to best prepare for the upcoming OFC Women’s Nations Cup, which also acts as a qualifier for next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Pacific women’s teams gear up
The OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022 has been confirmed to take place in Fiji between July 13-30.
Cook Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Tonga and Vanuatu will play for the chance to join New Zealand – who qualified automatically as the co-hosts – as the Oceania representatives at the World Cup.
American Samoa are unable to take part due to ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The tournament format will see three groups each made up of three nations play each other once, before the top two sides from each group, as well as the two best third-placed teams from the group stage, advance through to the quarter-finals.
The draw for the OFC Women’s Nations Cup will take place on Tuesday, May 10 and see competing nations split into three posts based on their FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking as of March 25, 2022.
The quarter-finals, semi-finals and final will all be single-leg matches, with the two losing semi-finalists also contesting a playoff for third place.