Adam Watson hat-trick fires New Zealand into FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru

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New Zealand are going to November’s FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru, having gained qualification with an emphatic 4-1 win against Fiji at the Oceania U-17 Championship.

The victory, led by an Adam Watson hat-trick, earned New Zealand a place in Saturday’s championship final against New Caledonia, with both teams gaining automatic access to the World Cup.

Main photo: The New Zealand are heading to Peru and the FIFA U-17 World Cup.

After scraping through their quarter-final against 10-man Vanuatu on Sunday, there was always going to be tension going into a sudden death match against host nation Fiji who have played well at the OFC tournament.

But a strong second half, when the depth of New Zealand’s talent was demonstrated by coach Martin Bullock’s substitutions, put the side on the path to Peru.

New Zealand struck first when the ball was played through by Matt D’Hotman to Adam Watson after only seven minutes.

Watson controlled the ball, lost a defender and created space to shoot into the net from 15 metres.

Relief as Watson opens the scoring for New Zealand.

The relief at scoring so early was apparent in the goal celebration of the New Zealanders — surely, this game wasn’t going to be the cliffhanger like the quarter-final against Vanuatu?

Seven minutes later, the Kiwis were back to square one.

Fiji captain Aron Naicker swung a hopeful ball into the New Zealand penalty area where it was missed by one forward but met on the full by Salimone Ravonokula who half-volleyed it into the roof of the net.

The rest of the half was played at pace, both sides willing to take on players one-on-one; both sides ready to go hard into the tackle.

By half-time, honours were even.

New Zealand took the initiative early in the second half when Watson scored his second goal, clinically scoring a rebound when Jackson Cole’s long-range shot was parried by ‘keeper Ilisoni Koro.

A few minutes later, Watson almost had his hat-trick. Playing into the box, he bore down on the ‘keeper but was tackled from behind, and went down.

Adam Watson received the Player of the Match award.

New Zealand players screamed for a penalty — in fact, D’Hotman was booked for his protestations — but referee Ben Aukwai was not swayed.

In the 72nd minute, Watson turned goal provider, splitting the Fijian defence with a perfectly weighted through ball that created a one-on-one for Luke Supyk.

Supyk calmly slotted the ball into the net for his sixth goal of the tournament.

With 10 minutes to go, Watson completed his hat-trick with a solo effort that saw him weave past two defenders and shoot across the goal and inside the far post.

A three-goal lead and time running out for the tiring Fijians, the only question was whether New Zealand would manage the remainder of the game, or push for a bigger winning margin.

Fiji threw everything forward, forcing New Zealand to play out the time.

The New Zealand celebrations at the final whistle were restrained; both sides had played themselves to a standstill in the humid conditions. Only after the team had recovered did the celebrations start.

On Saturday, in the final, New Zealand will meet New Caledonia who made them work hard for a 3-2 win in their pool game.

For New Zealand, it’s a chance to claim the OFC Championship for the eighth time in a row.

Coach Martin Bullock’s post-match reaction

READ MORE: Coach Martin Bullock” ‘We knew our subs would be the decisive factor’ >>>>

Match highlights

Here are the edited highlights of the game:

Match replay

You can watch OFC’s stream of the match here:


New Zealand

Matthew Foord, Luka Coveny, Anton Isaako (Jesper Edwards 23′), Dylan Gardiner (captain), Luke Supyk (Nicholas Murphy 85′), Jackson Cole (Niko Bruce 66′), Harry Huxford (Ryan Lee 67′), Harrison Tisch, Anaru Cassidy, Adam Watson, Matt D’Holman (James Ray 85′).

Subs not used: Joshua Brown (GK), Eamonn McCarron (GK), Marley Leuluai, Eric Imachi Sugahara, Konstantino Gorgiovski, Luke Flowerdew, Gabriel Sloane-Rodrigues.

Head coach: Martin Bullock.


Coveny (47′), D’Hotman (55′), Danny Knight (goalkeeper coach) (85′), Martin Bullock (head coach) (85′)


Ilisoni Koro, Aron Naicker (captain), Isimeli Gavidi, Prashant Kumar (Nirav Kumar 80′), Richard Swami (Petero Maivalenisau 90+6′), Salimone Ravonokula, Ibraheem Afazal, Delon Shankar, Watisoni Batirerega, William Khan, Jacob Seninawanawa (Vinayak Rao 74′)

Subs not used: Savenaca Nabati (GK), Kartik Sharma (GK), Waisea Nagonelevu, Sahil Deo, Peni Misipopi, Vilikesa Vosagaga, Neeraj Sharma.

Head coach: Sunil Kumar.


Naicker (37′), Batirerega (39′), Robert Mimms (goalkeeper coach) (62′).


Referee: Ben Aukwai (Solomon Islands), assistant referees: Jeffery Solodia (Solomon Islands) and Allan Chenot (New Caledonia), fourth official: David Yareboinen (Papua New Guinea).



Games played on Wednesday January 25, 2023

New Zealand 4 (Adam Watson 7′, 50′, 80′, Luke Supyk 72′)
Fiji 1 (Sailimone Ravonokula 14′)

New Caledonia 1 (Nolhann Alebate 14′)
Tahiti 1 (Titouan Guillemant 30′)

*New Caledonia won 3-2 penalties


Play-off for third

Game to be played on Saturday January 28, 2023

Tahiti v Fiji
HFC Bank Stadium, Suva (5pm, NZT)


Game to be played on Saturday January 28, 2023

New Caledonia v New Zealand
HFC Bank Stadium, Suva (5pm, NZT)

READ MORE: Here’s all our coverage of the OFC U-17 Championship >>>>

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