- Solomon Islands into first World Cup with Peru 2019 qualification
- New Zealand set for seventh straight FIFA U-17 World Cup appearance
- Oceania pair are first to join the hosts at the 24-nation tournament
Solomon Islands created history by qualifying for the FIFA U-17 World Cup Peru 2019 with a deserved 3-1 win over Fiji in the first semi-final of the OFC U-16 Championship on Wednesday.
A large crowd was on hand at the Lawson Tama Stadium in Honiara to roar on the local heroes as the football-mad nation finally reached its first 11-a-side FIFA tournament.
The Solomons began as favourites after defeating New Zealand in the group stage and they duly took a handy lead thanks to a first-half double from Charles Mani.
Fiji struck back through Nikhi Pillay on the stroke of half-time but Raphael Le’ai, who hit the post earlier in the match, wrapped up the contest with a late strike to spark wild celebrations in the capital.
Solomon Islands have previously competed with distinction at Futsal and Beach Soccer World Cups.
In the latter match, New Zealand turned around their indifferent form to earn an impressive 4-1 win over Tahiti and secure a berth at their seventh consecutive U-17 World Cup.
The Kiwis raced to a three-goal lead by midway through the opening half with Henry Hamilton collecting a double.
Tahiti had been seeking first-ever qualification at U-17 level after recently reaching the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland.