For the first time ever Australia and New Zealand competed at the Pacific Games in selected events, adding more prestige to the event. However, only football from this continental multi-sport game was to be a direct qualifier to the Olympics though it was considered to be a separate event from the main games. The winner of the Olympic qualifier qualified to the Olympics. The 2015 Pacific Games was held in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea from June 3rd to June 18th 2015. The Olympic qualifying event was held from June 3rd to June 12th 2015.
The group stage was considered to be the first round for both the Olympic qualifiers and Pacific Games therefore three entrants were ineligible to qualify to the Olympics were competing. Had one of these nations finished in the top 2 the next best ranked nation qualified to the Olympic qualifiers semifinals. In total there were five eligible nations fighting to reach the semifinals.
Group A only had two eligible nations so the only question was who would be ranked first. A 1-1 tie between Fiji and Vanuatu meant results against the other two nations would decide who would finish first. Despite an impressive 46-0 win over Micronesia Vanuatu lost top spot when Fiji was able to tie Tahiti 0-0 in order to give it one more point over Vanuatu.
Group B had New Zealand topping the group with 2-0 and 1-0 wins over Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea respectively. The fight for the second semi-final spot was tight until Papua New Guinea took a 2-0 lead at the 65th minute. Solomon Islands made it interesting when they scored at the 87th minute, but they were unable to complete the comeback as Papua New Guinea won the match 2-1.
The semifinals went initially as expected as favourites Fiji and New Zealand won their matches 3-1 and 2-0 over Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu respectively. However, there was a lot of controversy at the Pacific Games as New Zealand was expelled from the Oceania football qualifier for fielding ineligible player Deklan Wynne. The Oceania Football Confederation awarded Vanuatu a 3-0 victory and a spot at the final.
Both Fiji and Vanuatu knew something special was about to happen as a first trip to the Olympics was now available to both of them. With that in mind both teams played tentatively where a goalless draw was the final result. In penalties it was Fiji that secured the 4-3 win and a historic berth to the Olympics.
There’s no doubt New Zealand will appeal the disqualification. Looking at the rules Deklan Wynne is ineligible, but if New Zealand could prove that they got an exception from FIFA beforehand then they may have a case. If that is the case then a match against Fiji could be in the future though I am not sure how likely New Zealand could win its case.
Quotas by Nation
- Fiji – 1
OceaniaFootball. History-making continues for Rio-bound Fiji. Access on July 12 2015.