The Oceania FIFA World Cup qualifying tournament has started with a day of drama as Vanuatu were unable to field a team for the opening game against Tahiti.
Most of the Vanuatu squad tested positive for COVID-19 when given rapid antigen tests before they left their hotel for Grand Hamad Stadium in Doha, Qatar.
Oceania Football Confederation issued a statement saying:
“Vanuatu would not have had enough players to field a team.
“OFC is working with FIFA on the matter and will provide a further update in due course.”
FIFA World Cup qualifying tournament regulations say tournaments should “proceed as scheduled whenever possible” if a lack of players forces a match to be called off.
Meanwhile, Solomon Islands beat Cook Island 2-0 in the opening game of the tournament.
Playing in blustery conditions, the Solomon Islanders took their chances in their first international match for more than two years.
Scorers were midfielder Atkin Kaua (20′) and Alvin Hou (45+1′).
All Whites update
While Day 1 was coming to a premature close in Qatar, All White Chris Wood was playing for Newcastle United at Everton in the English Premier League.
Wood was planning to leave the UK after the game to join his All Whites teammates in Doha.
He played a full 90 minutes and 16 minutes of added time in United’s 1-0 loss at Goodison Park.
The postponement of Newcastle United’s weekend game against Crystal Palace meant he could travel sooner than first planned and he hopes to be a spectator for New Zealand’s first game, against Papua New Guinea.
3am (NZT): New Zealand v Papua New Guinea
6am (NZT): Fiji v New Caledonia
Download our one-page guide
Friends of Football have produced a print-friendly one-page guide to the qualifiers.
It covers the Oceania and CONCACAF qualifiers that by March 31 will determine which two nations will play-off in June for the 32nd and final place at the FIFA World Cup finals.