Vanuatu secured second place in Group B of the 2003 OFC U-17 Qualifying Tournament with a hard fought 3-2 win over Tahiti in the last match of the group tonight at Maroochydore Soccer Centre in the Sunshine Coast, Australia.
Vanuatu leapfrogged New Zealand to finish second on the final standings after the Solomon Islands held the kiwis to a 0-0 draw in the first match of the evening.
Tahiti pushed Vanuatu all the way and were still in the game with twenty minutes to go in the match and on level terms at 2-2. But Vanuatu striker Sylverstone Kanegai answered his country’s call by scoring the game winning goal in the 74th minute.
Vanuatu went into the break with a narrow 2-1 lead thanks to goals to Charles Ligo after two minutes and John Alick Harry just before half-time. Tahiti scored through Tahi Jason in the 15th minute.
The second half began with both sides fiercely trying to gain the upper hand. The increasingly difficult playing conditions coincided with the contest taking on a more physical nature as the main pitch began to deteriorate after the two earlier games were hampered by rainy spells.
Three cautions were dished out in the middle of the second half and Tahiti were able to capitalise on frustration from their opponents by stunning Vanuatu with an equalising goal in the 67th minute. From there Vanuatu were able to regain their composure to orchestrate the game winning goal in the dying stages.
Afterwards, Vanuatu technical director and national coach, Carlos Buzzetti was all smiles and his elation was also reflected on the joyous celebrations by the players.
It was very satisfying to come through after such a tough game. We’re happy to come second in this tough group and proves our second place at the Oceania U-16 tournament last year was no fluke,” he said.
We lost two of our best players, including a top goal scorer, before the game due to suspension from carrying two yellow cards into this match, but the others responded well and kept their composure. Tahiti played well and really took to us.
The final playoff will now take place on 28 February and 5 March and decide who represents Oceania at the FIFA U-17 World Championship in Finland this August.
goals: 8 Charles Ligo 2′; 7 John Alick Harry 34′; 12 Sylverstone Kanegai 74
goals: 9 Tahiti Jason 67
HT: 2-1 Vanuatu
Cautions: 7 Charles Ligo (VAN) 54′; 6 Horoi Jeff 54′; 4 Geoffrey Lego Lete 59
Weather: Rain, slippery conditions – humid