Day 5 at the qualifiers: The semi-finalists look to be sorted already

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With only five games played of the 12 scheduled group games, the semi-finalists appear to have emerged at the Oceania FIFA World Cup qualifying tournament in Qatar.

Certainly, three of the four nations are already through to the knockout stages and, on form, Papua New Guinea are favourites to join them.

Here’s the situation after Day 5 of the eight-nation tournament:

Group A

Only one game has taken place in Group A — a 2-0 win by Solomon Islands against Cook Islands.

Vanuatu are in quarantine, awaiting flights home, since withdrawing from the tournament after most of their players tested positive for COVID-19. The Cook Islands squad, also unable to field an eligible team for their remaining games, are almost certain to be going home too.

FIFA/OFC have yet to announce a decision on how the withdrawals will affect the final group placings.

Click here for our analysis of the options >>>>

The question is whether New Zealand’s semi-final opponents will be determined by an off-the-pitch decision or by Friday’s only remaining Group A game between Solomon Islands and Tahiti.

Regardless, Solomon Islands and Tahiti are assured of semi-final berths.

Group B

New Zealand’s 4-0 against Fiji ensures the All Whites go through to the knockout stages and only a calamitous loss to New Caledonia by a high score would rob them of top position in the group.

The All Whites were clinical in their drubbing of Fiji, with striker Chris Wood scoring twice to take the all-time goalscoring record for his country.

Substitute Elijah Just scored his first goal at full international level and Clayton Lewis added a penalty.

Click here for our match report, video highlights and other details from New Zealand’s win >>>>>

In the earlier game, Papua New Guinea beat New Caledonia 1-0 with the winner scored by former Hamilton Wanderers striker Tommy Semmy.

PNG’s defence, led by captain Alwin Komolong and brother Felix, withstood plenty of pressure from New Caledonia and have conceded only one goal in their two tournament games (to New Zealand).

That defensive record, and the fact Fiji could only manage one shot on goal against New Zealand, indicates the Kapuls are favoured to win when the two nations meet on Friday (6am NZT).

A win to PNG, or a draw, would see them go through as runners-up to the All Whites.

How they stand

What next?

Day 6 is likely to bring a ruling from FIFA/OFC on how the departures of Vanuatu and Cook Islands will affect the Group A standings.

Meanwhile, seven of the All Whites leave the squad tomorrow to return to their clubs. This was pre-planned with the late arrival of others who had club commitments.

Those leaving are Kosta Barbarouses, Clayton Lewis, Dane Ingham, Dalton Wilkins, Oli Sail, Ben Old and Ben Waine.

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