New Zealand erased the memory of a dismal Oceania Nations Cup campaign with a 2-0 victory over New Caledonia in their opening third-round match of Oceania World Cup qualifying in Noumea yesterday.
Oceania champions Tahiti, who had captain Nicolas Vallar sent off just before halftime, were earlier beaten 2-0 by the Solomon Islands in Honaira in the first match of the region’s final round of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
New Zealand, who qualified for the 2010 finals in South Africa, were humbled 2-0 by New Caledonia in the semi-finals of the Oceania Nations Cup in June, which cost them the opportunity of a big payday at next year’s Confederations Cup in Brazil.
Yesterday, first-half goals from Shane Smeltz and Chris Wood settled the nerves, although the All Whites were required to do most of the defending in the second half.
In Honiara, Tahiti were reduced to 10 men on the stroke of halftime when Vallar was sent off for a foul on counterpart Henry Fa’arodo, who had earlier given the home side a 1-0 lead and was bearing down on goal.
Himson Teleda added the second goal after the break, to give the Bonitos an upset win in the first match of the final stage of qualifying in the Oceania region, which consists of a single pool of the four teams, all playing each other at home and away.
The winner of the pool advances to face the fourth-placed team from the Central and North American confederation in a two-legged playoff for a spot in Brazil.