New Zealand returns to the Olympics in men’s football after being disqualified in 2016 due to fielding an ineligible player. They accomplished this by winning the 2019 Oceania Men’s Olympic Qualification Tournament. In total eight nations competed in two groups with the top two advancing to the semi-finals. The event was held in Suva and Lautoka, Fiji from September 21st to October 5th 2019.
Group A saw New Zealand and the Solomon Islands defeat Samoa and American Samoa to advance to the next round. In the match that decided the group winner it was the Solomon Islands who gave New Zealand an early scare by scoring in the first minute. New Zealand would recover and score two goals before half-time on route to winning the match 4-2. Samoa finished third thanks to a 5-0 victory over American Samoa.
Group B was won by Vanuatu whom defeated Papua New Guinea (3-1), Tonga (8-0) and Fiji (1-0) thanks to a 45th minute goal by Claude Aru. Also advancing was Fiji as they won their first two matches against Tonga (4-1) and Papua New Guinea (3-1). Papua New Guinea finished third in the group thanks to a 6-1 victory over Tonga.
An own goal by Fiji’s Scott Wara began a match to forget for the host nation as New Zealand went up 4-0 by half-time on route to winning the match 6-1. The other semi-final match was a more defensive affair where a 37th minute goal by Agustine Waita was the difference maker to allow the Solomon Islands to advance to the finals over Vanuatu.
In the final, New Zealand took an early lead against the Solomon Islands. By half-time they were up 3-0 and by the final whistle they won the match and Olympic quota 5-0. The bronze medal was won by Vanuatu whose 75th minute goal by Azariah Soromon gave them the 1-0 victory.
This will be New Zealand’s third appearance in the men’s tournament where they will hope they can advance past the group stage for the first time. The next continent to have its qualifier will be Africa via the U23 Cup of Nations to be held in November.
* New Zealand