OFC Men’s Nations Cup 2008

Football 2008 Oceania Nations Cup – FIFA World Cup Qualifying Thai Airways All Whites v New Caledonia North Harbour Stadium Albany Wednesday 10th September 2008. The All Whites. Photo Credit: Shane Wenzlick

The eighth edition of the OFC Nations Cup took place in 2008 and again doubled as part of the qualifying process for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. It was the first staging of the tournament held since Australia’s transfer to the Asian Football Confederation in 2006, and consisted of just four teams. New Zealand automatically qualified as the highest-ranked OFC nation, whilst New Caledonia, Fiji, and Vanuatu joined them after finishing inside the top three at the 2007 South Pacific Games. All four teams were grouped together and played each other home-and-away over the course of eleven months, with the top-ranked side qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup intercontinental play-off and also claiming the OFC Nations Cup title.

With two victories on the road to start their campaign in Fiji and Vanuatu, New Zealand took charge of the tournament early on. They were 2-0 victors in Lautoka, and 2-1 winners in Port Vila, before making it three wins from three with a commanding 4-1 success at home to Vanuatu in Wellington. Nobody was quite able to piece together the consistency to challenge New Zealand, and they sealed the OFC Nations Cup title with a fourth straight victory away in New Caledonia.

Football 2008 Oceania Nations Cup – FIFA World Cup Qualifying Thai Airways All Whites v New Caledonia North Harbour Stadium Albany Wednesday 10th September 2008. All Whites Simon Elliott collides with New Caledonia’s Andre Sinedo. Photo Credit: Shane Wenzlick

Two goals from Shane Smeltz helped them to a 3-1 success in Noumea, before he scored another brace in a 3-0 victory at home to the same opposition in Auckland. Fiji pulled off a famous 2-0 victory over New Zealand on the final matchday in Lautoka, but it was too little too late as the All Whites stormed home to secure their fourth OFC Nations Cup title. New Caledonia finished seven points behind in second, whilst Shane Smeltz was the tournament’s top scorer with eight goals.

Having secured the continental crown, New Zealand earned the right to represent OFC in an intercontinental play-off with Bahrain to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. They drew 0-0 in the away leg in Manama, before famously securing a 1-0 win at home with a Rory Fallon header to book their tickets to a second FIFA World Cup in South Africa. At the tournament, New Zealand also made history as the only unbeaten team, notably drawing 1-1 with Italy, alongside stalemates with Slovakia and Paraguay.