New Zealand have qualified for next year’s FIFA U-20 Men’s World Cup after beating Tahiti 2-0 at the OFC U-19 Championship tournament.
The youth All Whites won 2-0, managing the game well by taking an early chance, controlling possession and closing down the Tahiti players before they could do any damage.
Plus, the New Zealanders had a decent slice of good fortune when Tahitian goalkeeper Anapa Debruyne committed a blunder that gifted the second goal.
The win, in the semi-final of the tournament, sees New Zealand lined up to face Fiji in the final on Sunday, with both countries already guaranteed a spot of next year’s World Cup in Indonesia.
The result means New Zealand have scored 30 goals at the tournament and conceded none.
Main photo: New Zealand celebrate their World Cup qualification. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.
New Zealand got off to a storming start when Tahitian ‘keeper Debruyne flapped at an inswing free kick that was met by the head of Isaac Hughes from close in, with less than a minute on the clock.
The Kiwis celebrated en masse, heading to the dugout to affirm their joy.
From then on, it was down to business.
Knowing Tahiti would need to chase the game for the next 89 minutes, New Zealand were content to let the ball do the work, keeping possession.
Midfielder Jay Herdman had a first-half shot saved and every time New Zealand got the chance to put a ball into the box, Debruyne looked uncertain.
In the second half, with 52 minutes played, New Zealand took charge.
Striker Kian Donkers was fed the ball on his left boot, and he lined up a shot from the edge of the area.
It was struck low but without venom. At first, it seemed a regulation save for Debruyne but he fumbled and the ball ran beneath him and over the goal line. He desperately clawed the ball out but not before the goal was awarded.
While Donkers claimed the goal, post-match analysis might credit it as an own goal.
New Zealand managed the rest of the game in a workmanlike fashion, to the extent they were warned about time-wasting.
But none of that mattered. After four minutes of added time, the whistle blew and New Zealand could look forward to an U-20 World Cup — and a tournament final on Sunday.
READ MORE: Post-match comments from coach Darren Bazeley >>>>
Games played on Thursday September 22, 2022
New Zealand 2 (Isaac Hughes 1′, Kian Donkers 52′)
Fiji 1 (Nabil Begg 75′)
New Caledonia 0
Game to be played on Sunday September 25, 2022
New Zealand v Fiji
Stade Pater in Papeete, 6pm (NZT)