New Zealand have earned themselves the easiest path — in theory — through the knockout stages of the OFC U-19 Championship with a 6-0 win against the Solomon Islands.
The result places New Zealand at the top of Group A, meaning they’ll play the best-performing third-placed team from Group B or Group C.
That means potential opponents are Papua New Guinea, Tonga or Vanuatu.
Papua New Guinea play Tonga tomorrow and the winner would meet New Zealand in the quarter-finals. A draw would potentially see PNG as New Zealand’s opponents, even though they have defaulted their opening two games at the tournament in Tahiti.
New Zealand had to survive a few first-half scares against the Solomon Islands as their opponents counter-attacked with speed.
But the Kiwis settled down after Kian Donkers put them ahead midway through the half when he ran onto a long ball over the Solomon Islands defence, and calmly placed the ball past ‘keeper. Junior Pitua.
As half-time approached, New Zealand won a penalty which Donkers put just outside the reach of the ‘keeper.
Solomon Islands came out charged up for the second half and looked sure to score when Junior Rocky burst through with only goalkeeper Henry Gray to beat.
Wellington Phoenix defender Marco Lorenz rescued the situation with a perfectly-timed tackle.
With a couple of minutes, New Zealand punished their opponents with a third goal when Adam Supyk, another Phoenix youngster, smashed his shot into the net from an angle.
In the 67th minute, Supyk turned provider, crossing to the far post for Birkenhead United full back Everton O’Leary to steer the ball home.
Two minutes later, Supuk jinked his way into the penalty box and then finished clinically from close in for a superb solo effort.
New Zealand finished off their rivals with a sixth goal, scored by another Phoenix player, Fin Conchie, who found the net in the 87th minute.
The result means New Zealand scored 23 goals in their three pool fixtures, conceding none.
New Zealand need to reach the final of the tournament to qualify for next year’s FIFA U-20 Men’s World Cup in Indonesia.
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Game played on Wednesday September 14, 2022
New Zealand (Kian Donkers 23′, 45’+1′, Adam Supyk 55′, 69′, Everton O’Leary 67′, Fin Conchie 87′)
Solomon Islands 0
Group A (final)
Game to be played on Sunday September 18, 2022, 2.30pm (NZT)
New Zealand v Best performed 3rd team from Groups B/C
Stade Fautaua, Papeete, Tahiti
The group winners and runners-up from each group will progress to the quarter-final stage, as well as the two highest-ranked third-placed teams.
Q1: NEW ZEALAND (winners Group A) v Best performed 3rd team from B/C
Q2: Winner Group B v Best performed 3rd team from A/C
Q3: Winner Group C v SOLOMON ISLANDS (runners-up Group A)
Q4: Runners-up Group B v Runners-up Group C
Winners Q1 v Winners Q2
Winners Q3 v Winners Q4
About the OFC U-19 Championship
New Zealand have won the championship at seven of the 22 previous tournaments.
New Zealand are the current title holders, having won in 2018, the last time the championship was held.