A favourable draw will allow Tahiti the opportunity to return to their former glory after a disappointing campaign last time saw them miss the final group stage for the first time. The Tahitians still face a highly-competitive group alongside fellow French Polynesians New Caledonia and unpredictable Vanuatu, as well as a qualifier from the First Stage which consists of American Samoa, Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga. All four Group A participants will be buoyed by a draw which kept them apart from regional heavyweights New Zealand, plus Solomon Islands and Fiji.
New Caledonia can lay claim to favouritism in this section after a second-place finish in the Oceania zone behind eventual qualifiers New Zealand last time around. Despite a long history of football, New Caledonia were only affiliated to FIFA in 2004 and thus have competed in just two FIFA World Cup™ qualifying campaigns.
Vanuatu: A history of erratic results has never been better illustrated than in the campaign for Germany 2006, when Vanuatu turned on a dynamic display for a memorable 4-2 victory over New Zealand, only to lose their other four group matches. Nevertheless, football continues to develop rapidly in Vanuatu with Amicale impressing in becoming the nation’s first club side to reach a continental final.
Tahiti: Tahiti were one of the strongest Island nations during the 1990s only to fall off the pace during the last decade. The French Polynesians will be anxious to prove that the disappointment of their last two campaigns was merely a blip rather than a trend.
Player to watch
Striker Fenedy Masauvakalo is expected to form a lethal goalscoring partnership with Seule Soromon for Vanuatu. The powerfully built No9 was the OFC O-League’s top goalscorer in 2011 and now has the experience to blossom internationally after featuring throughout the qualifying campaign for South Africa 2010.
The crunch match
The meeting between New Caledonia and Vanuatu will go a long towards deciding top spot in the group. The former had the better of proceedings last time, winning 3-0 at home and drawing 1-1 in Port Vila.
A look back
Tahiti 0-1 New Caledonia, 25 August 2007, Apia (Samoa)
The very first global game on the road to South Africa 2010 was the last time these two met in a competitive international. Only a ninth-minute penalty from iconic New Caledonia midfielder Pierre Wajoka separated the teams.
2 – The number of FIFA World Cup campaigns in which New Caledonia have participated. Only Papua New Guinea are equally inexperienced among Oceania nations, having featured in the qualifiers for France 1998 and Germany 2006.
Did you know?
52 matches have elapsed since the last scoreless draw between two OFC teams in FIFA World Cup qualifying, which dates back to 29 May 2004 when Tahiti and Fiji failed to rouse the scoreboard attendant.
Have your say
Can one of the four Round One participants - American Samoa, Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga – upset the odds and claim a top-two finish in this group to progress to Round Three?