PARTICIPANTS in the region’s premier competition have found their groups and will see a slight formation change.
The draw was conducted in Auckland at the OFC Headquarters, by OFC President Lambert Maltock and competition director Chris Kemp.
The OFC announced earlier this month that the Champions League will have a change to the way its played. The quarterfinals go from a one-off affair to a home-and-away series, while the final becomes a single match.
This is something that used to be the norm when the competition started, when the competition was named the OFC Club Championship. It has only been seen twice in the Champions League era, first in the 2014-15 edition, when Auckland City defeated Team Wellington on penalties in Fiji’s capital Suva, and in 2016 when the same two sides duked it out at QBE Stadium in Auckland.
Group A in the 2019 edition will see Hienghène Sport from New Caledonia do like they did in 2016 and host a group. This year will see Papua New Guinea’s three-time champions Lae City Dwellers (plays in their home league as Toti City Dwellers), Tahiti’s AS Tefana and Vanuatu’s National Super League winner Malampa Revivors come to town. Malampa will return to the competition after last participating in 2016.
In Group B last year’s losing finalists Lautoka FC from Fiji will welcome teams to Churchill Park. AS Central Sport from Tahiti, Papua New Guinea’s debutants Morobe Wawens and the second place of the Solomon Islands S-League will be their competition.
Group C sees Port Vila Premier League champion Erakor Golden Star host a group for the very first time. The Ni-Vanuatu outfit will welcome last year’s winner Team Wellington from New Zealand, Fiji’s ‘Men in Black’, Ba FC and the qualifying stage runners-up.
Finally, Group D means a return to the wonderful Lawson Tama Stadium in Honiara as the winners of the S-League will get to entertain the football-mad masses of the Solomon Islands. Joining them in the heat and unpredictable weather in the Pacific island nation are New Caledonia’s AS Magenta, who will be back in the Solomons for the second year in a row, Auckland City FC of New Zealand and the winner of the qualifying stage.
The group stage will be played through February and March with the qualifiers set to take place in the Cook Islands in January. The league winners of the Cooks, American Samoa, Samoa and Tonga will all give it their best to get to the group stage.