Kiwis celebrate Olympic double

New Zealand had cause for a double celebration as their men's and women's teams secured the Oceania Football Confederation's nomination for the Olympic Football Tournament in Beijing with straightforward victories in the qualifying event which took place in Lautoka, Fiji.

The men's team topped their standings with a resounding 8-0 victory over the Cook Islands on Sunday, but the hard work had already been done with wins over main rivals Fiji [2-1] and the Solomon Islands [2-0] on the first and fourth matchdays respectively.

It left them needing a point from their final match against the Cook Islands, who had lost their four previous matches by an aggregate score of 30-0.

By the time Steven Old and Jeremy Brockie had scored inside the first 20 minutes the result was a formality, but a brace from Jason Hayne, plus goals from Sam Messam, Daniel Ellensohn, Costa Barbarouses and skipper Aaron Scott added to the islanders' misery.

"We we're always going to win this match, it was just a case of how many," said Kiwi coach Stu Jacobs. "But you still have to maintain your professionalism and the lads certainly did that today."

However, the Oly-Whites, together with their female counterparts, face a nervous wait to see whether the New Zealand Olympic Committee will ratify their inclusion in the Olympic events. In the next few days, a New Zealand Football representative will meet with the NZOC's three-man Olympic selection panel to discuss the merits of both teams.

With New Zealand's future uncertain, there was added impetus on both Fiji and Solomon Islands in the race to seal second spot.

Fiji looked to be doing things the easy way and found themselves 2-0 up inside the first 25 minutes through Roy Krishna and Maciu Dunadamu. But the Solomon Islands staged an astonishing comeback with three goals inside 14 minutes inspired by a Joachim Waroi brace and a candidate for goal of the tournament by Michael Fifi.

Straightforward for Ferns
Renee Leota's first international goal came at a crucial time for the Football Ferns who recorded a 2-0 win over a hardworking Papua New Guinea side in a one-off encounter at Port Moresby's Rugby League Stadium on Saturday.

Coach John Herdman's pre-match call for patience from his side was justified as it took the Kiwis 55 minutes to break the deadlock.

'It was what we expected with Papua New Guinea putting 11 players behind the ball and a bobbly pitch making passing difficult," said Herdman. "However, we we're always in control and it was just a matter of time before we scored."

Picking up on a poor clearance on the edge of the box, 17-year-old Leota buried a right foot shot into the bottom left hand corner to break the deadlock and relieve the mounting tension.

With the resistance of the South Pacific Games champions broken, substitute Kirsty Yallop added another nine minutes from full time to cap the win and secure Oceania's nomination for the Olympic games.