New Caledonia put youth on display

After taking out gold at the 2015 Pacific Games in Port Moresby, New Caledonia are keen for a repeat at the Pacific Mini Games which got underway in Vanuatu Saturday.

New Caledonia have opted to take an U-21 team to compete in the games, and still believe they’ll be a threat despite coming up against senior opponents.

The squad is built around the players which competed in the OFC U-20 Championship in 2016, a side which made it all the way to the semi-finals, and midfielder and captain Pothin Poma believes that has provided the team with a good structure.

“We know each other well because it’s more-or-less the team that took part in the U-20 World Cup qualifiers. We’ve been playing with our clubs and we’re ready to go out there and do well,” Poma said.

Teammate Shene Welepane agrees it’s a good side.

“It’s a good group we’ve got here and we want to do the same thing the U-23 did when they went to Papua New Guinea, we want to win.

“We have to concentrate, we’re going to play against seniors but many of us are used to that from our club football. We’re very motivated,” Welepane said.

Coach Francois Tartas said although he has confidence in his side, given some of them will still be completing their exams in New Caleodnia as the first match kicks off, he expects it won’t all go as smoothly as he’d hoped.

“Despite the fact some of the players will arrive late, we are motivated and excited to do well.

“There are some great teams in this competition, both Fiji and Vanuatu have players who have competed at World Cups, but we need to remain focused on our objectives.