OFC Men’s Nations Cup 2012

Tahiti are the 2012 Nations Cup Champions. OFC Nations Cup 2012, Grand Final, Tahiti v New Caledonia, Lawson Tama Honiara, Sunday 10th June 2012. Photo: Shane Wenzlick

The ninth edition of the OFC Nations Cup was held in 2012 and was hosted at the Lawson Tama Stadium in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands. The tournament consisted of eight teams, with two groups of four nations, and the top two progressing to the semi-finals. The group stage also doubled as the second round of OFC World Cup qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, with the top two sides in each group also advancing to the final stage of the qualification process. New Zealand, the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Fiji, Vanuatu, Tahiti, and Papua New Guinea automatically qualified as the seven highest-ranked OFC members, whilst Samoa came through the qualifying tournament to secure their first appearance at the OFC Nations Cup. Tahiti, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, and Samoa were drawn together in Group A, whilst hosts the Solomon Islands, were grouped alongside defending champions New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Fiji in Group B.

Tahiti made their ambitions clear with a commanding 10-1 victory over debutants Samoa to open Group A, whilst a decisive hat-trick from Bertrand Kai helped New Caledonia to a 5-2 win over Vanuatu elsewhere. The two opening winners met on matchday two, with Tahiti claiming the spoils 4-3 in a seven-goal thriller, sealing their place in the semi-finals with a match to play. Vanuatu kept themselves in the race for second spot with a 5-0 win over Samoa, but they fell to a 1-4 defeat to Tahiti on the final matchday as the latter secured top spot. A 9-0 win for New Caledonia over Samoa ensured they joined Tahiti in the final four.

Crowd. OFC Nations Cup 2012, Fiji v New Zealand, Lawson Tama Honiara, Saturday 2nd June 2012. Photo: Shane Wenzlick

Unlike previous campaigns, New Zealand found navigating the group stage more difficult. They were made to battle hard for 1-0 and 2-1 wins over Fiji and Papua New Guinea to secure top spot, before being held to a 1-1 draw by the Solomon Islands on the final matchday. Goals were hard to come by for all sides in Group B, with just nine scored across the six fixtures, compared to a whopping 44 in Group A. That left the stakes high as the remaining three sides battled it out for the final spot in the semi-finals. Fiji played out draws with both the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, but it was the hosts slender 1-0 success over Papua New Guinea on the opening matchday that secured their place in the final four alongside New Zealand.

In front of a roaring crowd at Lawson Tama Stadium, tournament hosts the Solomon Islands tackled Tahiti in the first semi-final. The fairytale run was to end for the home side though, with Jonathan Tehau opening the scoring in the 15th minute and Tahiti holding on for a gritty 1-0 victory, booking their place in a first OFC Nations Cup final since 1996. The second semi-final didn’t follow the script either, with New Caledonia pulling off one of the famous OFC Nations Cup upsets to beat New Zealand 2-0 and qualify for their first final. Second half goals from Bertrand Kai and Georges Gope-Fenepej secured the win, sparking wild celebrations both for New Caledonian fans at Lawson Tama Stadium and around the globe.

The New Caledonia bench celebrate New Caledonia’s 2nd goal. OFC Nations Cup 2012, Semi Final New Zealand v New Caledonia, Lawson Tama Honiara, Friday 8th June 2012. Photo: Shane Wenzlick

Having lost all of their previous three finals, Tahiti finally claimed their maiden OFC Nations Cup title with a 1-0 victory over New Caledonia in the 2012 final. In similar circumstances to the semi-final, Steevy Chong Hue opened the scoring inside the opening ten minutes and Tahiti held out for a famous victory at Lawson Tama Stadium. Earlier New Zealand had won a dramatic third-place play-off, beating hosts the Solomon Islands 4-3 with a hat-trick from Chris Wood. With six goals New Caledonia’s Jacques Haeko picked up the tournament’s golden boot for the most goals scored, whilst his teammate Rocky Nyikene was awarded the golden glove for the best goalkeeper of the tournament. The Solomon Islands received the fair play award, and Nicolas Vallar was awarded the golden ball award for the best player of the tournament.

Tahiti players celebrate at the sound of the whistle. OFC Nations Cup 2012, Grand Final, Tahiti v New Caledonia, Lawson Tama Honiara, Sunday 10th June 2012. Photo: Shane Wenzlick

With their maiden continental crown, Tahiti were given the chance to represent OFC at the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil, becoming the first nation outside of Australia or New Zealand to represent the region at the tournament. Whilst they suffered defeats in all three of their group stage matches at the tournament to Nigeria, Spain, and Uruguay, Tahiti impressed the world with their fight and determination.