New Zealand has secured its place at the FIFA World Youth Cup – Canada 2007 with victory at the OFC Youth (U-20) Championships on home soil today.
A Chris James goal at the death was enough to seperate the kiwis and New Caledonia, sending the local fans into delight at the final whistle.
New Zealand’s path was essentially confirmed moments earlier when closest rivals Fiji fell at the hands of Tahiti on the second pitch at the Trusts Stadium in Henderson.
Earlier in the day Vanuatu sealed Samoa’s fate as the wooden spooners with a 3-1 victory.
Vanuatu 3 (Nimanian 9′; Kaltak 17′; D. Natou 74′)
Samoa 1 (Tokuma 6′)
Entering Match Day 7 Vanuatu were sitting on two points after draws with Tahiti and the Solomon Islands, a loss against Samoa would confine them to the bottom of the table. Dominiko Tokuma did his best to secure victory with for the Samoans opening the scoring after six minutes only for Jeffry Nimanian to equalize moments later.
Vanuatu then took the lead through Michell Kaltak, and while Samoa never gave up, the match ended as Daniel Natou’s shot took a wicked deflection off a Samoan defender and looped over the head of Motu Hafoka in goal.
VAN: Malas; Obed; Sara; N. Natou; Kaltak; Molbet (Boe 79); Nimanian; Melar (Namariau 46); D. Natou (Maralau 83); Avock; Sakama
Subs not used: Merka; Tari; Wayane; Kara; Graham; Paul
Caution: N. Natou
SAM: Hafoka (Tauai 81); Setefano; Fonoti; Umutaua; Puleaiga; Faalavaau; Tokuma; Malo; Fenika (Vaa 43); Lino; Tino (Amosa 66)
Subs not used: Gosche; Liaina; Taitai
Tahiti 2 (Chan 23′, 65′)
Trailing New Zealand by a point, Fiji were eager to secure three points to give themselves the best possible chance to pressure the kiwis.
After a bright opening, Tahiti opened the scoring against the run of play. The impressive Tefai Faehau layed on a tap-in for Leon Chan from six yards and the momentum shifted Tahiti’s way.
Fiji rallied late in the half with goal-machine Roy Krishna going close before a headed effort by skipper Esava Naqeleca crashed against the crossbar and was scrambled to safety.
It was more of the same in the second half with the Tahitian rearguard absorbing wave after wave of Fiji attacks. Two smart saves at the near post by Faahei Vaite denied Krishna, before Chan scored again on the break.
Tempers flared between the two sides soon after and Lorenzo Tehau recieved his marching orders picking up two yellow cards in the space of minutes.
Try as they might however, Fiji were unable to claw their way back into the game and their Canadian dream was over.
TAH: Vaite; L. Tehau; Taero; Tereiitau; Teriihapuare (Warren 81); Faehau (Degage 90); Bougues; Ferrand (Aitamai 67); Chan; A. Tehau
Subs not used: Wan Phook; Upara
Yellow Cards: L. Tehau 68, 70
Red Card: L. Tehau 70
FIJ: Mateinaqara; Niulevu (Waqa 67); Posiano; Samy; Singh; Krishna; Naqeleca; Senibuli; Kautoga; Deama (Dass 55); Prasad (Nakalavo 77)
Subs not used: Dileqa; Krishneel; Underwood; Tuilau; Dickson
Yellow Cards: Senibuli 38, Krishna 68, Posiano 71
New Zealand 1 (James 94+’)
New Caledonia 0
Chris James emerged as the hero for New Zealand as they booked a place at the FIFA Youth World Cup for the first time.
The All Whites midfielder feared the worst when he had third and 36th minute penalties saved by New Caledonia goalkeeper Manu Wejieme in a match New Zealand had to win to be guaranteed a ticket to Canada from late June.
But the charity spot stutters were quickly forgotten when James rifled a left-footed volley past Wejieme in the fourth minute of stoppage time to seal a title-clinching 1-0 win at Trusts Stadium.
New Zealand should have taken the lead in the third minute when Wejieme hauled Brockie down in the box. But James blasted his penalty kick straight at the keeper who guessed right by not moving.
New Caledonia were reduced to 10 men when Jeremie Dokunengo saw red for a hand-ball on the goal-line in the 35th minute but Wejieme guessed right again and dived that way to deny James a second time.
The rest of the match produced a catalogue of close calls for New Zealand who must have feared it wasn’t going to be their day until James pounced in the 94th minute.
NZL: Spoonley; Hogg; Peverley (Cunningham 66); Edginton; James; Brockie; Jenkins (Vincent 37); Roydhouse; Boxall; Keat; Schaeffers (Peters 52)
Subs not used: Peters; Pelter; Brown; Purcell; Keane
Yellow Cards: Brockie 60, Cunningham 85, James 94+
NCL: Wejieme; Dokunengo; Xenie; Lolohea; Forest; Wakanumune; Caunes; Sablan (Saiko 72); Luewadria; Bolo (Kakou 38); Sele (Tidjine 90)
Subs not used: Tevanou; Bowen; Nyikeine; Wahnyamalla
Yellow Card: Forest 87
Red Card: Dokunengo 34