The Samoan national women’s football team think the extra time they have spent in New Caledonia will put them in good shape for the OFC Nations Cup.
Their campaign begins today at 11am Samoan time, when they take on reigning Pacific Games champions Papua New Guinea at Stade Yoshida, Koné.
Coach Nicola Demaine said the Samoan team were first to arrive.
“We’ve had three trainings now, and the most time to get used to the conditions.
“The girls have had plenty of time together too, the travel has been good for bonding.”
Demaine said the focus has mostly been internal, but they have also previewed the particular challenges Papua New Guinea will bring.
“They had a warm up game while we were travelling, and I recognise a few names in the team.
“The intensity of how they play, It will definitely be tough but it’s also a big opportunity.
“Traditionally at these tournaments all the island teams just improve as they go through it, so we’ll catch them before that.”
New cap and vice-captain Matalena Daniells is nervous but excited ahead of the match.
“I’ve played Under-20s before, so have played with a couple of the girls from that.”
Daniells grew up in Australia and plays for the Moreton Bay club in Queensland.
Despite being born there she is eligible to play for Samoa through her mother
Daniells joined the national team for their camp in Samoa last week, meeting most of her teammates for the first time.
“They’re all so easy to get along with, it’s been great.
“We are really gelling together, training has been pretty good
Daniells takes her leadership role in the team seriously.
“As vice-captain it’s my job to lead by example.”
A right back for her club side, Demaine said her qualities are needed by the national team in midfield.
“We don’t use the term defensive midfielder.
“It’s a responsibility for one midfielder to think about defending if transition looks likely.”
Demaine thinks Samoa are good enough to make a semi-final at least.
“Our vision for the programme is Samoa on the podium, that’s what we’re aiming towards.”