Football: All Whites progess to semis with ugly win

By Michael Brown

All White Marco Rojas. Photo / Getty Images.
All White Marco Rojas. Photo / Getty Images.

The All Whites have said they don't care how they achieve success at the Oceania Nations Cup and they remain on track after beating the Solomon Islands 1-0 last night.

The win was their third from three games in Papua New Guinea and, while it wasn't particularly a result of flowing football, they will be satisfied with their progress in a tournament that sees the winner qualify for next year's Confederations Cup.

The All Whites will now meet the second-placed team from the other group, which could be Tahiti, New Caledonia or Papua New Guinea, in Wednesday's semifinals.

Tahiti and New Caledonia square off tonight and have the advantage of knowing what they need to do to progress with Papua New Guinea expected to easily beat Samoa in the earlier game.

None of the trio frighten Anthony Hudson's side, with the standard of the Island teams having seemingly declined since the Nations Cup of four years ago when the All Whites were beaten by New Caledonia in the semfinals and Tahiti went on to play at the Confederations Cup in Brazil.

But they will also know not to take any match in this important tournament lightly.

The All Whites did what they needed to last night. Hudson made seven changes from the side that dispatched Vanuatu 5-0 three days earlier, given they were already assured of qualifying top, and they dominated possession and territory.

They struggled to carve out clear-cut chances, however, until centre back Luke Adams nodded in a teasing cross from Matthew Ridenton in the 80th minute.

They had been forced to adapt their game plan from the often route-one football adopted in their opening two games without big, physical strikers Chris Wood (injured) and Rory Fallon (started on bench).

New Zealand looked more threatening as the game wore on and were largely untroubled at the back, where Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi impressed in the unfamiliar role of centre back.

"I thought today was a really professional performance," Hudson said. "When a team sits back and defends and tries to hit you on the break, it's going to be tight.

"These games, if you can keep a clean sheet and win 1-0, I'm really happy with that."

The Solomon Islands, who have Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx among their coaching staff, also progressed after finishing second in the group ahead of both Fiji and Vanuatu on goal difference.

? The wait for the New Zealand women's football side will need to go on, for a few more days at least, after they were beaten 2-0 by Australia in Ballarat yesterday.

The Football Ferns haven't beaten Australia in 23 years and never really threatened yesterday. They competed well for long periods but were undone by the pace and ruthlessness of the Australian attack and could not break down their uncompromising defence.

Caitlin Foord scored a brace for Australia, the world's fifth-ranked side.

The two sides will meet again in Melbourne on Tuesday, when the Socceroos also take on Greece at Etihad Stadium in a double header.

It will be the Football Ferns' final game before the Rio Olympics, where they have been drawn in a tough group with the US (ranked No 1), France (3) and Colombia (24).

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