New Zealand have qualified for the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup by beating Tahiti 4-1 in their OFC U16 Championship semi-final in the Solomon Islands on Wednesday evening.
New Zealand were fast out of the blocks, Oskar Van Hattum giving them the lead just a few moments after kick-off before Henry Hamilton took his tournament goal tally to six with a quick-fire double.
That gave the Kiwis a well-deserved 3-0 lead with under 25 minutes on the clock and they went on to complete the job in the second half, Matthew Garbett stroking home from the spot to help book his country a ticket to Peru.
With so much riding on the outcome, an early goal to settle the nerves would have been exactly what Jose Figueira was after and his players didn’t disappoint, a quick free kick from Hamilton allowing Van Hattum to be played in on goal and he rounded goalkeeper Josselin Capel to slot home in just the second minute.
It got even better around ten minutes later as Matthew Garbett found space down the right to pick out leading marksman Hamilton at the back post and he beat Capel to place one New Zealand foot in Peru. Both feet were all but firmly planted in South America when Hamilton hit his second, again turning in from close range after outstanding work by Van Hattum on the right and a saved shot from Garbett.
New Zealand were now threatening to run riot and Tahiti had barely had a sniff of goal but the French Polynesians provided more resistance in the second period and were in fact next to find the net some time later, Tekaki Sangue giving them faint hope with just over ten minutes remaining.
But any prospect of a remarkable comeback was stamped out just a few minutes later when the dangerous Van Hattum was brought down in the box and Garbett coolly side-footed his penalty into the bottom corner to restore the three-goal cushion.
Safe in the knowledge their spot in Peru is secure, New Zealand will now take on hosts Solomon Islands in the OFC U-16 Championship final on Saturday and Figueira is expecting his players to be up for the challenge.
“I think it sets up a really good final and I guess we don’t need much motivation after the last result against them,” he says.
“We’ll let the boys enjoy it tonight and reflect on what they’ve accomplished but we want to get the job done in the last game.”
Tahiti 1 (Tekaki Sangue 79’)
New Zealand 4 (Oskar Van Hattum 2’, Henry Hamilton 13’, 24’, Matthew Garbett pen 82’)
New Zealand: 12. Luca Taylor (GK), 2. Max Drake, 3. Kris Naicker, 5. Ryan Verney (19. Hayden Aish 62’), 6. Campbell Strong (c), 7. Marko Stamenic, 8. Jackson Manuel, 9. Henry Hamilton (15. Bradley Wilson 59’), 11. Matthew Garbett, 14. Oskar Van Hattum (4. Adam Hillis 84’), 17. Nathan Lobo
Substitutes not used: 1. Alex Paulsen (GK), 10. Joseph Lee, 13. Finn O’Connor, 16. Sean Bright, 18. Benjamin Old, 20. Harry Bark
Cautions: Marko Stamenic 37’, Henry Hamilton 57’
Coach: Jose Figueira
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