In the space of three days, the New Zealand U19 men’s footballers have won the OFC U-19 Championship in Tahiti and booked their berth to next year’s FIFA U20 World Cup in Poland.
The FIFA U20 World Cup qualifying spot was achieved first in their 2-1 semi-final win over New Caledonia.
The semi-final win was achieved in thrilling fashion, falling behind in the first half before launching a stirring comeback in the second to win their fourth consecutive match of the tournament.
On Sunday, New Zealand earned a hard fought 1-0 victory over the tournament hosts Tahiti in the final at Stade Pater in Pirae tonight.
Watch video highlights of the final below.
The defining moment came shortly after half-time when Matthew Conroy used his speed to take the ball to the by-line on a counter-attack and cut back well for Trevor Zwetsloot to hit a powerful shot past Tahitian keeper Moana Pito. The 18-year-old from Germany’s Werder Bremen delivered the decisive strike in the final.
It was a pivotal period in the match as moments earlier Tahitian captain Roonui Tehau hit a goal-bound free-kick which was superbly tipped over the bar by New Zealand goalkeeper Cameron Brown.
New Zealand, under Head Coach Des Buckingham, continued their superb record in the OFC U-19 Championship. The defending champions claimed their seventh title and their fifth of the past six tournaments in a performance of character and resilience.
Buckingham was delighted with the team’s performance throughout the tournament as they went through undefeated, scored 23 goals and only conceded two.
“It was a very tough game and you can see the work that Tahiti have put in over the past year,” said Buckingham.
“It really shows on the pitch and they are very hard to break down. We had four days in a camp before we came here so for the players to adapt the way that they have in a short space of time is really pleasing. For both New Zealand and Tahiti to go and represent Oceania at the World Cup next year is a great achievement for both.”
New Zealand captain Joe Bell, who again led by example with a commanding performance in the midfield, said it was a hugely satisfying to book their place in the FIFA U-20 World Cup and also win the championship.
“I am really happy with how the team performed,” said the 19-year-old who plays his football for the University of Virginia.
“The boys put in a great shift in that game. It was very hard and there have been some very talented teams over here. I am very proud to be able to lead them through this. We came here to qualify but we also wanted to win the tournament.
“Our focus is now next year on the World Cup which is going to be very tough but we have a good coaching staff and we will be well prepared for whatever we are going to face.”
OFC U-19 Championship Final
New Zealand 1 (Trevor Zwetsloot 49’) Tahiti 0
New Zealand: 1. Cameron Brown (GK), 2. Jordan Spain, 3. Dino Botica, 4. Joe Bell ©, 5. Robert Tipelu, 6. Dane Schnell, 7. Matthew Conroy (19. Ollie Whyte 68’), 8. Trevor Zwetsloot, 9. Max Mata, 11. Willem Ebbinge, 15. Callan Elliot
Subs not used: 12. Zac Jones (GK), 10. Charles Spragg, 14. Jorge Akers, 16. Leon Ven Den Hoven, 17. Boyd Curry, 18. Kingsley Sinclair
Head Coach Des Buckingham
Caution: Jordan Spain, Joe Bell
OFC U-19 Championship Semi-final
New Zealand 2 (Max Mata 55’, Willem Ebbinge 76’)
New Caledonia 1 (own goal 41’)
New Zealand: 1. Cameron Brown (GK), 2. Jordan Spain, 3. Dino Botica (19. Oliver Whyte 90’ + 5’), 4. Joe Bell (c), 5. Robert Tipelu, 6. Dane Schnell, 7. Matthew Conroy (10. Charles Spragg 62’), 8. Trevor Zwetsloot (11. Willem Ebbinge 40’), 9. Max Mata, 15. Callan Elliot, 16. Leon van den Hoven
Substitutes not used: 12. Zac Jones (GK), 14. Jorge Akers, 17. Boyd Curry, 18. Kingsley Sinclair
Cautions: Leon van den Hoven 27’, Trevor Zwetsloot 33’, Robert Tipelu 50’, Dino Botica 83’, Charles Spragg 83’, Cameron Brown 85’, Callan Elliot 90’ + 6’
Coach: Des Buckingham
College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand