The coach of Papua New Guinea’s gold-medal winning women’s soccer team hailed his players’ “ugly”, but effective, performance in Thursday’s 1-0 win against New Caledonia.
Marie Kaipu’s goal was the different between the two sides at the Hubert Murray Stadium, but Philips believed his team’s defensive resilience was the key to victory.
“We were better organised and restricted them to very few chances. We carried out the game plan. It was a bit ugly but finals are rarely a pretty event,” said Gary Philips (AUS) after PNG secured its fourth successive Pacific Games soccer title.
“It’s about character. The home support gave us another leg and I think we just wanted it more than they did. It’s a very proud moment.”
PNG’s disciplined display restricted New Caledonia’s star striker Christelle Wahnawe (NCL), who had scored 10 times in her previous four matches, to few chances.
“There are some quality individuals on that team. The combination between No.9 (Wahnawe) and No.10 (Celine Xolawawa, NCL) is fantastic and we knew that if we stopped the 10, we’d stop the 9 and that was the key tonight,” said Philips.
“It was a sloppy first 10 minutes and our goalkeeper made a couple of very important saves – we shouldn’t forget that – but defensively we were very solid and that’s the basis of any successful team. Then we took the chance that mattered.
“I told the girls this was a great opportunity to inspire another generation of young female footballers. They were courageous tonight and hopefully they’ve done just that.”
New Caledonia was also beaten by PNG in the women’s soccer final of the Noumea 2011 Pacific Games, and player Kim Maguire said the side failed to handle the pressure of the big occasion in front of a vociferous home crowd.
“Unfortunately I think emotions beat us on the night. We came to the stadium and everyone was screaming and it was just another world for our young side,” said Maguire.
“Maybe it’s a bit of stress too from being in the final for the second time in a row against the same team and this time it’s in their country. Of course we can beat them, but every four years we wait for this moment and get to the final and it just slips away from us.”