The winners of the OFC Nations Cup and consequently the team to qualify for the next preliminary stage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ has effectively been whittled down to a two horse race after New Caledonia and New Zealand recorded big victories over Fiji and Vanuatu respectively on Wednesday.
Ricki Herbert's New Zealand team were too powerful for Vanuatu defeating the visitors 4-1 at Westpac Trust Stadium thanks to braces from David Mulligan and Shane Smeltz.
Vanuatu earned a consolation goal when substitute Francois Sakama pulled one back in the 50th minute but the New Zealanders were in control from start to finish striking the woodwork on two occasions.
The victory puts New Zealand in first place with three wins from three matches in the competition and odds-on favourites to lift the OFC Nations Cup and secure the Stage 3 qualification berth for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.
"We've certainly put ourselves in a good position," said Herbert. "In terms of qualifiers, we're three from three in 2007 and firmly in the driving seat now. The result and performance was just what we needed. We looked after the ball well and all round the pitch I think it was pretty comprehensive."
Meanwhile, New Caledonia has all but ended Fiji's hopes in the competition with a 4-0 demolition of Juan Carlos Buzzetti's team.
Influential midfielder Pierre Wajoka opened the scoring after 29 minutes before Michel Hmae scored his first goal just two minutes later to give Didier Chambaron's team a 2-0 advantage at the interval.
The New Caledonians put the result beyond doubt with two similarly quick strikes again from Hmae after 60 minutes and then through Marius Mapou in the 63rd minute.