OFC Men’s Nations Cup 2004

The seventh edition of the OFC Nations Cup was held in 2004 and doubled as World Cup qualification for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. The tournament consisted of six nations playing each other over the course of a round-robin format, before the top two qualified for a home and away two-legged final. Australia and New Zealand qualified for the tournament automatically as the two highest-ranked OFC members, whilst the Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Vanuatu, and Fiji battled through to join them from the 10-team qualifying tournament. All six teams were drawn together in one group and played each other once over the course of nine days across two venues in Adelaide, Australia.

The tournament began with a replay of the previous three OFC Nations Cup finals, as Australia edged out New Zealand 1-0 through a first half strike from Mark Bresciano. That gave Australia a decisive advantage in the race for the top two, and they secured top spot with wins over the remaining nations, aside from a 2-2 draw with the Solomon Islands on the final matchday. New Zealand responded to the opening defeat with a 3-0 win over the Solomon Islands, but were on the wrong end of one of the greatest upsets in OFC Nations Cup upsets on matchday three. Previously winless Vanuatu shocked New Zealand 4-2 at Hindmarsh Stadium for their only victory of the campaign, leaving the door ajar for someone else to sneak inside the top two. The Solomon Islands were the team to pounce, and secured their place in the final after beating Vanuatu, Tahiti, and Fiji, alongside the crucial 2-2 draw with Australia on the final day of pool play.

After their dramatic draw in the group stages, Australia and the Solomon Islands would meet again over the course of two legs home and away to decide the 2002 OFC Nations Cup champion. The winner of the tournament was all but sealed after forty-five minutes of the first leg though, as Australia took a 4-0 lead to halftime in Honiara, before closing out 5-1 win. It was more of the same in the second leg in Sydney, with Australia cruising to a 6-0 victory and confirming their fourth OFC Nations Cup title with an 11-1 win on aggregate. The two sides would meet again over the course of two legs to decide who would progress to an intercontinental play-off for a place in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, with Australia also winning 9-1 on aggregate. With six goals each, Australia’s Tim Cahill and New Zealand’s Vaughan Coveney finished joint level for the most goals scored across the course of the tournament.