Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Oceania: Tahiti win maiden OFC Nations Cup title

Posted in International Football, Oceania Football by peterbein on June 10, 2012

OFC Nations Cup logoTahiti are the champions of the OFC Nations Cup for the very first time following an exciting final against New Caledonia. Tahiti, whose previous tournament best had been three second placings in 1973, 1980 and 1996, finally scribed their name on the trophy following Sunday’s 1-0 triumph and claimed a place in next year’s FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil.

New Caledonia, beaten finalists in the previous tournament in 2008, had caused a huge upset on Friday when disposing of the defending champions New Zealand 2-0 in the semi-finals whilst Tahiti reached the final on the back of a tense 1-0 win over hosts Solomon Islands. The final on Sunday was preceded by the third/fourth play-off match between the two losing semi-finalists with New Zealand clawing back some pride in an exciting 4-3 win over the Solomon Islands. The final, however, didn’t see as many goals but no shortage of tension as Tahiti, thanks to the exotically named Steevy Chong Hue, scored the only goal of the game in the 11th minute of the game. Try as they might, New Caledonia were unable to equalize and Tahiti were able to see out the game and claim a maiden title.

The tiny Pacific island, part of French Polynesia, will be hugely rewarded for their success in the OFC Nations Cup by taking part in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup which could see them pitted against the likes of world champions Spain and tournament hosts Brazil. Tahiti, as well as the other three nations who made the OFC Nations Cup semi-finals, also have the third round of FIFA World Cup qualification to look forward to which begins in September this year.

Oceania: Semi-Final line-up complete as Nations Cup hots up

Posted in International Football, Oceania Football by peterbein on June 7, 2012

OFC Nations Cup 2012 logoThe semi-final line-up of the 2012 OFC Nations Cup is now known following the completion of the tournament’s group stages yesterday.

Defending champions New Zealand have made through to the last four having topped Group B on goal difference over fellow semi-finalists Solomon Islands. Both nations had a record of two wins and a draw from three games but New Zealand’s goal record in their wins over group opponents Fiji and Papua New Guinea allowed them to pip the Solomon Islands, with whom they shared a 1-1 draw yesterday, to the top of the standings.

Group A was won by Tahiti who are the only country still in the competition with a 100% record having won all of their three group matches against Samoa (10-1), New Caledonia (4-3) and Vanuatu (4-1). In a group which was saturated with goals, New Caledonia claimed second place in the group and the final semi-final spot on Tuesday when thrashing tournament whipping boys Samoa 9-0.

Tahiti will meet tournament hosts Solomon Islands in the first of tomorrow’s semi-finals before New Caledonia face off against New Zealand to decide the second Nations Cup finalists. All four countries, as a result of reaching the semi-finals, have also progressed to the third round of FIFA 2014 World Cup qualifying in the Oceania region. Before that important phase of World Cup qualifying begins in September, the OFC Nations Cup will come to a conclusion on Sunday, June 10th with the winners subsequently qualifying for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.

Oceania: New Zealand looking for back-to-back Nations Cup titles

Posted in International Football, Oceania Football by peterbein on May 31, 2012

OFC Nations Cup logoThe 2012 OFC Nations Cup will be the most important football tournament to be held in the Oceania region for many years. As well as playing for continental glory, the competition also doubles as the second round of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The top four teams will go on further in the World Cup qualifying process whilst a place in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup will also await the team who triumphs in the Nations Cup final on Sunday, June 10th.

It is all to play for in the tournament which begins on June 1st in the Solomon Islands. The host nation have never won the OFC Nations Cup, their best performance coming in 2004 where they finished second to an Australia team taking part in the competition for the final time before they switched over to the Asian Football Confederation. The Solomon Islanders have been drawn in the same group as defending champions New Zealand so the odds on topping their group appear slim but a place in the top two of Group B would see them through to the semi-finals of their home tournament.

Favourites New Zealand are still basking in the aftermath of their 2010 FIFA World Cup campaign in which they went undefeated against group opponents Italy, Paraguay and Slovakia and were unfortunate  to be eliminated on goal difference. That tournament represented real progress for the All Whites who will hope to carry off the OFC Nations Cup for the second consecutive time following their 2008 victory in which they topped a four team league table which included New Caledonia, Fiji and Vanuatu. The champions will face off against the Fijians in their group again this time around with Fiji hoping to cause a real upset this around and get to their first tournament final. Papua New Guinea are the real underdogs in the tournament, their position in the FIFA World Ranking is 193rd (the lowest out of the eight teams), but they do contain a significant number of players from 2010 O-League champions Hekari United and will hope to transfer some top level club experience onto the international stage.

Group A seems more open and not just because of the absence of New Zealand. New Caledonia finished second in the most recent tournament in 2008 finishing seven points behind the Kiwis in the tournament table. Amongst their opponents are Tahiti whose squad includes a sizeable contingent of players from 2012 O-League finalists Tefana FC. Also in the mix are Samoa who qualified for this tournament on the back of a successful first phase in FIFA World Cup qualifying. They saw off neighbours American Samoa, Cook Islands and Tonga in order to take their place in the OFC Nations Cup. The final team in the competition is Vanuatu who are still hoping for a maiden final appearance having only ever finished as high as fourth place on four occasions, the most recent being in the four-team tournament of four years ago.

The group stage will be played out from June 1-6 where the top two teams in each group will qualify for the semi-finals of the OFC Nations Cup as well as the final round of FIFA World Cup qualifying which will begin in September this year. The semi-finals will be played on June 8th and the tournament will come to its natural conclusion on June 10th at the Lawson Tama stadium in the Solomon capital of Honiara.