The long road to determining the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ champions commenced in the Samoan capital of Apia way back on 25 August 2007. On that occasion New Caledonia captain Pierre Wajoka had the honour of scoring the first goal in the global campaign for South Africa 2010 with his ninth-minute penalty enough to edge Tahiti 1-0 in a Francophone derby. It proved to be the commencement of a solid campaign for the New Caledonians who were only admitted to FIFA in 2005.
The first stage of qualifying saw ten teams split into two groups with Group A comprised of Cook Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia, Tahiti and Oceania Football Confederation associate member Tuvalu. Group B featured American Samoa, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.
Fiji and New Caledonia finished well clear of the opposition to claim their position in the semi-finals of Round 1, with Tahiti four points away from progressing. The Solomon Islands started their campaign in bright fashion as the Pacific football hotbed maintained momentum from their previous campaign which saw them finish ahead of New Zealand. The Solomon Islanders progressing to the semi-finals in imperious fashion winning all four matches and conceding just one goal.
Joining them were Vanuatu who had also impressed in the qualifying campaign for Germany 2006. Samoa, captained by Chris Cahill, elder brother of Australian superstar Tim, recorded two wins to finish ahead of Tonga and American Samoa with the latter scoring its first-ever FIFA World Cup goal through the boot of Ramin Ott.
The semi-final stage produced a major shock as the Solomon Islands lost firstly to 3-2 to New Caledonia, and then to 2-0 to Vanuatu in the play-off, to miss qualification for Stage 2. New Caledonia defeated Fiji 1-0 in the final, with both teams joined by Vanuatu in progressing to the next stage where New Zealand awaited.
There was little room for error with only six matches each in the four-nation Stage 2. New Zealand set up their campaign nicely with two tough away wins first-up in Fiji and Vanuatu, and the Kiwis never looked back, winning their first five matches to seal the title of Oceania champions. Fielding an under strength line-up the All Whites did lose their last group match against Fiji, who were edged from second spot by New Caledonia, seven points behind the Kiwis.
New Zealand had to wait 11 months to face the fifth-placed Asian nation in an intercontinental play-off for a berth to South Africa 2010. Bahrain defeated regional giants Saudi Arabia to book their meeting with New Zealand. The first leg in Manama was a hard-fought affair in oppressive heat and despite goal opportunities for both teams, the match finished scoreless.
The second leg in front of a record crowd in the New Zealand capital of Wellington saw Rory Fallow score in the final minute of the first half with what proved the only goal of the game. A second-half penalty save from Mark Paston helped ensure the All Whites first FIFA World Cup appearance since 1982.
Fiji striker Osea Vakatalesau claimed the honour of finishing as the globe’s top-scorer during South Africa 2010 qualifying, along with Burkina Faso’s Moumouni Dagano, by grabbing a dozen goals from nine matches. The goal-ace forming a dynamic partnership with young sharpshooter Roy Krishna but it wasn’t enough for the Fijians who finished eight point behind New Zealand.
Oceania Player of the Year Shane Smeltz led the way in the crucial Stage 2 qualifying section, picking up eight goals in just five outings. Smeltz set to lead the line for the Kiwis in South Africa alongside target-men Chris Killen and Rory Fallon.
"We've waited 27 years to resurrect something very important to us. This group have given it everything, four years of total commitment. We’re back, we’re there. South Africa, here we come,” New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert.
The qualified team
12 goals - Osea Vakatalesau (Fiji)
9 - Seule Soromon (Vanuatu)
8 - Shane Smeltz (New Zealand)
7 – Commins Menapi (Solomon Islands)
6 - Iamel Kabeu (New Caledonia), Francois Sakama (Vanuatu), Roy Krishna (Fiji)
5 - Etienne Mermer (Vanuatu), Michel Hmae (New Caledonia)
4 - Teariki Mateariki (Cook Islands)