OFC: It will be the ultimate moment of truth for four teams heading into the tomorrow evening’s final round of the group qualifying stages at the 2004 OFC Men’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Sydney and Auckland.
Sydney’s Marconi Stadium will play host to what promises to be, a bruising and much anticipated battle between Australia and Fiji, to decide the Group A winner. Australia requires only a draw to advance to the final playoff but the imposing Fijians will be a stern test for the overwhelming tournament favourites.
Over in Auckland, all eyes are on the weather as the heavens opened over North Harbour Stadium in round four last Tuesday. The weather has cleared today, but whether it holds up for tomorrow evening is out of the hands of both New Zealand and Vanuatu, who face-off to decide the winner of Group B. Vanuatu needs only a draw, but the hosts hold home advantage and will also be more suited to the wet conditions if the current weather patterns hold up.
The deciding games are not as clear cut as many were made to believe prior to the opening games. Fiji has been clinical and impressive while Australia has rattled in the goals despite feeling they have not yet hit their straps. Vanuatu has been impressive but will face their first real test when they play New Zealand, looking to bounce back after their disappointing display against Tonga. The kiwis have been threatening but their execution has not been the best despite easily winning all their games thus far.
Two styles will clash when the four teams meet. The island flair and individual skill against the technical effeciency and experience of the two Antipodean teams.
With a ticket to Athens within reach, the intensity of both matches is bound to be red-hot.
For the other four teams playing also for final placings, it will be doubly important for them to finish on a high note. Papua New Guinea have been disappointing by their own standards and will be out to douse the flames of the on-fire Samoans who caused the upset of the tournament by beating the Solomon islands.
American Samoa and the Cook Islands will also go at it hammer and tongs as both teams seek their first win of the tournament. Pride will be on the line fo all four bottom placed teams.
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