BY ROMULUS HUTA
NEW Zealand thrashed Vanuatu 8-0 on Sunday morning’s opener of the OFC Under-16 Championship at Lawson Tama Stadium.
The big win puts them on top of the Group A table ahead of Solomon Islands, PNG and Vanuatu, respectively.
Oskar Van Hattum was instrumental for the young All Whites side throughout the entire contest having played assist to two goals and also finding back of the net twice.
Played on a wet and a slippery turf, the Jose Figuiera-coached side put up a fine first half performance to find the back of the net five times in the first half through a double each coming from Ryan Verney and Henry Hamilton, respectively while the other was scored by Bradley Wilson.
Eleven minutes into the second Van Hattum added the sixth from the spot to register his name on the score sheet for the first time.
In the 77th minute, he added his second to increase the scoreline to 7-0 before setting up Joseph Lee for the final goal three minutes into injury time.
“I’m really happy.
“It’s a great start. You know, you’d always want to start this tournament with a win. But I think it’s not just the three points but the way we played.
“The wet pitch really suited us where we can be able to play our passing game, positioning game and control the game. So for an opening game, it’s a good start.
““There will be a big crowd and a big support like my experiences before and there will be a different challenge for us in the second game,” a delighted Figuiera said.
The Englishman added that his team’s next match is against Solomon Islands and that poses a big challenge for them.
“We are in a nice position now and we can go back and recover to play against Solomon Islands.
“We’ll take in a lot of confidence from this game (against Vanuatu) and get back and do our recovery now and tomorrow we’ll begin focussing on the next challenge.”
Vanuatu coach Joel Rarua appeared disappointed with the result of their first match and blamed slow movement with the ball for the loss.
“Our strategy could not work in the first game.
“Our boys are a bit slow in their movement and that affected our performance. Defensive mistakes also cost us in the first half.
“But in the second half, we pushed things up a bit and improved our performance with some good defending.
“Having taken into account the performance from the first game, we have identified the weaknesses and there is room for improvement in the second game.
“We have enough time to recover and our boys should be ready to take on PNG in the second match,” Rarua added.
New Zealand will take on Solomon Islands in their second match on Wednesday 3pm while Vanuatu will play PNG in the earlier fixture of the day.