A 100 per cent record saw New Zealand take the laurels at the 2007 OFC U-17 Championship and book a place at this year's FIFA U-17 World Cup finals in the process.

Victories over Fiji, Tahiti and New Caledonia served as an indication of their Oceanian dominance at this level. While the Kiwis saw themselves top the standings with a return of maximum points, their nearest challengers, second placed Tahiti, finished with seven points fewer and with a negative goal difference.

That, in part, was due to the clinical finishing of New Zealand captain Costa Barbarouses who finished as the tournament's leading scorer with five goals in the three games, including a hat trick in his side's final match against New Caledonia.

The Team Wellington striker scored the second goal in the team's 3-1 win over Fiji on the opening day of the tournament. Earlier in the match he had helped to set up his team's opener, supplying the cross for Cory Chettleburgh to volley the ball home.

Match 2 of the competition saw hosts Tahiti held to a goalless draw by New Caledonia, who were also involved in another tie in Match 3; this time against Fiji.

For many observers, the game between New Zealand and Tahiti (Match 4) was the decisive encounter. The Kiwis knew that victory in this game would be enough to take them to Korea. They made the perfect start when Mario Hoffman's fifth minute strike gave them an early lead, but Stephane Faatiarau equalised for Tahiti 13 minutes later.

However, Barbarouses again made the headlines as his 61st minute strike put the All Whites ahead for the second time in the match and consequently booked his side a berth at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in the process.

Tuaa's delight
With qualification assured, New Zealand coach Colin Tuaa made seven changes to his starting line-up for his side's last match against New Caledonia, but still saw them run out 4-0 winners.

"It was nice to finish on a high," said Tuaa. "We wanted to finish the tournament in style as we are already looking forward to Korea, so it was good to get our preparations for the World Cup off to a good start.

"It has been a fantastic week for us. To win the tournament after two games was incredible. It was certainly something we didn't expect but it was a real bonus. It has been a tough, challenging tournament. The heat and conditions were not easy for our side but the boys showed a lot of character. We knew the team had good technique and plenty of ability but we learnt a lot about the character of our side over the last few days.

"Every single member of the squad played their part, but we had some outstanding individual performances from Tim Myers at the back, Cory Chettleburgh and Jake Matthews in midfield and Costa Barbarouses up front. Cory was very consistent over the three games while Costa showed some real flair and an ability to do the unexpected even when he looked out of the game."

The OFC U-17 tournament ended with Tahiti playing out a goalless draw with Fiji.

2007 OFC U-17 Championship, Tahiti
21 March - 25 March 2007

Fiji 1-3 New Zealand
New Caledonia 0-0 Tahiti

Fiji 1-1 New Caledonia
New Zealand 2-1 Tahiti

New Caledonia 0-4 New Zealand
Fiji 0-0 Tahiti