By Jeremy Mogi – EM TV Sports, Port Moresby
The Oceania Football Confederation has released draws for competition to qualify for the Olympic Games.
The draws set out the path that Pacific teams must follow, in order to represent the region, in Rio, in 2016.
The 2015 football tournament is being contested by eight national men’s teams, with six of them eligible to qualify for the Olympics, while New Zealand, are out of contention for a medal at the Pacific Games.
The countries have been pooled into two groups, with Pool A to see matches played between Fiji, Vanuatu, Tahiti and the Federated States of Micronesia.
Group B will prove a tough proposition for hosts PNG, who will have to meet up with fierce rivals, the Solomon Islands, while 2011 Pacific Games champions New Caledonia will be very strong, as well as favourites New Zealand.
Fiji and Vanuatu will no doubt make the semi-finals, both countries, already IOC members in Pool A, while only New Caledonia in the second pool, aren’t qualified to represent Oceania in the Olympics,
Leaving Papua New Guinea, the Solomon islands and New Zealand, in a three-way tussle for a semi-final spot.
The women’s draws are largely similar, with Pacific women’s champions Papua New Guinea, needing to beat Fiji and the Cook Islands, before advancing to the next stage where they will meet New Zealand.
PNG will have a tough assignment against the White Ferns. The host’s best performance, a three nil thrashing in Kokopo in October 2014.
The PNG U23 men’s team representing the country are slated to meet New Caledonia on day one of competition on the 3rd of July.