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OFC U-19 Championship - Job not done for U-20 men

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

They may have already booked their spot at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland next year but the New Zealand players are still not satisfied with their exploits at the OFC U-19 Championship and are desperate to finish the job with a win in the final tomorrow.

With two nations progressing to the World Cup via Oceania qualifying, both New Zealand and fellow finalists Tahiti can already book their tickets to Europe. But there is still the regional title to play for while the Kiwis also have a proud record to protect as defending champions and with an unbeaten record in the tournament so far.

"We’re still really focused on the final, everyone always wants to be the champions at the end and be the kings of Oceania," says striker Willem Ebbinge, who proved a match-winner in the semi-final.

"We’re preparing really well for the final and are going to do everything we can to make sure we end up as champions."

The Wellington Phoenix youngster had a big role to play in taking his side this far, popping up with the decisive moment as New Zealand came from behind to defeat New Caledonia in a tense encounter three days ago. The tournament favourites found themselves a goal down at the break and with it all to do in the second half but a Max Mata equaliser set the stage for someone to become a hero and Ebbinge duly obliged.

With just 15 minutes left on the clock, he was put in behind a New Caledonian defence that had proved hard to break down and saw his initial shot saved before successfully following up to fire his country to the World Cup.

"It was an amazing feeling, indescribable really," he says.

"The boys worked really hard for the whole 90 minutes and we kept creating opportunities so I think we all felt that the goal was coming and it was a real relief to get it in the end. To be honest, I was just relieved that the ball rebounded straight back to me. That was quite lucky but a goal is a goal and it turned out to be an important one so I was very happy with it," he adds.

"It’s definitely one of the best moments I’ve had in my career so far. Scoring such a big goal is what everyone dreams about but, fore mostly, I was really happy to get the goal for the team when we really needed one. There was no doubt the goal was coming and it could really have been any of us to get it."

More of the same will be required to lift the trophy tomorrow and it’s likely to be another tough battle. Tahiti have home advantage and their only blemish so far has been a narrow 2-1 defeat to New Zealand on the opening day.

The hosts have already knocked out one previously unbeaten team after sweeping aside Solomon Islands 3-1 in their semi-final and would relish repeating that feat against the reigning champions to claim their first title in this tournament since 2008, when they were also the home side.

"When we played Tahiti it was actually our first game together as a squad so I think we can be very confident going into the final," Ebbinge says.

"Now that we have a few more games under our belt and a bit more experience as a team, we’ll be very well equipped to go and win."

New Zealand will take on Tahiti in the final of the OFC U-19 Championship on Sunday 19 August at 4pm (NZ time) with live streaming available via www.oceaniafootball.com

Please find attached audio from an interview with New Zealand U-20 men’s striker Willem Ebbinge.

Match Details

New Zealand vs Tahiti

OFC U-19 Championship Final

Sunday 19 August, 4pm (NZT)

Stade Pater, Tahiti

#OFCU19M #NZLTAH

New Zealand (from): 1. Cameron Brown (GK), 2. Jordan Spain, 3. Dino Botica, 4. Joe Bell (c), 5. Robert Tipelu, 6. Dane Schnell, 7. Matthew Conroy, 8. Trevor Zwetsloot, 9. Max Mata, 10. Charles Spragg, 11. Willem Ebbinge, 12. Zac Jones (GK), 14. Jorge Akers, 15. Callan Elliot, 16. Leon van den Hoven, 17. Boyd Curry, 18. Kingsley Sinclair, 19. Oliver Whyte

Coach: Des Buckingham

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