New Zealand's Olympic soccer dream lives on but only after some anxious moments as the Oly Whites saw off a brave Fiji 1-0 in yesterday's tense Oceania final at Taupo's Owen Delany Park.
That priceless goal - a Greg Draper 18th-minute penalty after an unfortunate Fijian hand ball by Ilisoni Tuinawaivuvu following an Alex Feneridis freekick - was enough to book Neil Emblen's team their spot in the football tournament at the London Olympics.
In the same match-up four years ago (in a round-robin tournament), New Zealand beat Fiji 2-1 with a 90th-minute goal.
There were anxious moments for the home side, which had two changes from the starting XI. They eventually sneaked home by the odd goal against Vanuatu in Friday's semifinal, with Dakota Lucas, back from a two-match suspension, and Tim Myers in for Louis Fenton and Ethan Galbraith.
There were few clear scoring chances, particularly from open play, but, as Emblen expected, Fiji were always a threat at set play and went agonisingly close just after halftime when Naqeleca headed a Misaele Draunibaka freekick on to the junction of the post and crossbar and Zibraaz Sahib headed a Draunibaka corner on to the crossbar.
There were other half-chances but they were without either goalkeeper being put under real pressure, although Jake Gleeson did injure himself in attempting to clear a 71st-minute Fijian corner.
With Fiji forcing seven corners to the Oly Whites' two, the defence was under pressure with Myers showing out in keeping the physically powerful visitors at bay.
Fijian coach Imdad Ali tagged the loss as "heartbreaking".
"We knew how they would play. Hopefully, we can do better next time we play."
The New Zealand women's team play the first leg of their Olympic qualifier against PNG at Whangarei's Toll Stadium on Saturday.