If the All Whites win the Oceania FIFA World Cup qualifying series on Thursday, they’ll almost certainly face Costa Rica in a one-off game to decide who goes to the November finals in Qatar.
Costa Rica consolidated their fourth placing in the CONCACAF qualifying series, beating El Salvador 2-1.
The fourth nation meets Oceania’s representative in an inter-confederation play-off in mid-June, with the winner taking the 32nd and last spot at the finals.
Costa Rica are currently ranked 42nd in the FIFA world rankings, ahead of New Zealand who are 111th.
While it’s mathematically possible for the United States or Mexico to still finish fourth, it would require an unlikely set of results in the last round of games on Thursday, and big changes to the relative goal differences of the teams.
Panama blew their hopes with a 5-1 loss to the United States, whose coaching staff includes former All Whites coach Anthony Hudson.
In the latest games, Canada beat Jamaica 4-0 to confirm a place at the World Cup finals for the first time in 37 years.
Qualification has made a national hero out of John Herdman who only 10 years ago, was playing Lotto NRFL second division football for Hibiscus Coast and working for NZ Football.
Canada 4-0 Jamaica
El Salvador 1-2 Costa Rica
United States 5-1 Panama
Honduras 0-1 Mexico
(All dates/times NZT)
Thursday March 31
2.05pm: Panama v Canada
2.05pm: Costa Rica v United States
2.05pm: Mexico v El Salvador
2.05pm: Jamaica v Honduras
Oceania’s moment of truth
A few hours before CONCACAF finishes its series, New Zealand will play the Solomon Islands to decide which nation will represent Oceania in June’s inter-confederation play-off decider in Qatar.
New Zealand reached Thursday’s tournament final with a bruising 1-0 win against Tahiti.
Liberto Cacace scored his first goal for New Zealand to break the deadlock.
Solomon Islands win their third game to book finals berth
Solomon Islands beat Papua New Guinea 3-2 in today’s other semi-final with Alvin Hou scoring twice.
PNG captain Alvin Komolong gave his side the lead before Hou levelled in the 33rd minute.
Late in the first half, Komolong brought down Raphael Lea’l, hat-trick hero of his side’s win against Tahiti on Friday, and referee Mohammed Abdulla Mohammed gave the penalty.
Solomon Islands skipper Micah Lea’alafa struck his spot-kick off the post and the sides went into half-time tied at 1-1.
Hou put his side ahead with a half-volley but he then suffered a bad injury, requiring a stretcher to leave the pitch.
His availability for Thursday’s final is in doubt.
A few minutes later, Lea’i struck his fourth goal of the tournament to give his side a 3-1 lead with about 20 minutes left.
Despite a late goal from Ati Kepo, Solomon Islands held on to ensure progression to the final.
To their credit, Solomon Islands have played three games and won three, despite the disruption caused by COVID to their pool games.
New Zealand v Solomon Islands
Grand Hamad Stadium
6am Thursday March 31, 2022
Watch: Live on Sky Sports 7.