A dominant performance by Papua New Guinea in an 8-0 win against Samoa saw them progress to the semi-finals of the 2016 OFC Nations Cup, and they were joined by New Caledonia who drew 1-1 with Tahiti to secure second place in Group A and a semi-final tie against New Zealand.**
Samoa's slim chances of reaching Russia, either at the FIFA Confederations Cup or FIFA World Cup™ were dashed by the continental tournament host's goal-laden showing, while Tahiti* *will have one more chance to reach a global stage when World Cup qualifying resumes next year.
PNG knew they needed goals against Samoa to stand a chance of topping Group A, and to bring their goal difference in line with New Caledonia and Tahiti, with the Francophone nations doing battle in the final game of the day. The expectant home crowd were not disappointed in the end, but were made to wait for a goal glut during a terse opening period. Michael Foster opened the scoring, with Raymond Gunemba's first goal meaning it was 2-0 at the interval.
The hosts' exciting counter-attacking style sometimes left them open at the back, and Samoa had several clear-cut opportunities, but the higher quality of attacking players on display for Papua New Guinea paid dividends in a superb second-half showing. Foster grabbed his second before the dangerous Nigel Dabinyaba grabbed a brace of his own, which sandwiched Gunemba's second and a composed finish by the excellent Koriak Upaiga. Gunemba completed his hat-trick late on, meaning it was job done for Flemming Serritslev's side, with their goal difference better than New Caledonia's following the final group game.
"I’m so so happy, I’ll give credit to the boys for all their hard work," PNG captain David Muta said after his side's victory. "We came out with a big win, that’s what we wanted. I have to say a big thank you to all of our supporters. They've stood behind us from day one until now."
Despite so much at stake for each side, Tahiti and New Caledonia both attacked with verve and vigour in the opening period of their final group game, with the former desperate to grab the victory they needed to secure progress to the final four. As a result, New Caledonia looked dangerous on the break. It was Tahiti who went closest in the first half, with Teaonui Tehau's header rattling the underside of the crossbar.
The second half was a tenser affair, with New Caledonia making rare forays forward to counter Tahiti's pressing. Joseph Atale hit a thunderous effort against the crossbar which left Tahitian hearts in mouths. The holders did not heed that warning as, with ten minutes remaining, Bertrand Kai received a Jean Philippe Saiko pass on the edge of the Tahitian penalty area and slammed home. There was to be late drama though, with Tahiti equalising through Tehau's back-heeled effort. It was not enough for Toa Aito as Les Cagous progressed at their expense - albeit in second place thanks to the Tahitian's late strike.
*Papua New Guinea 8-0 Samoa
Tahiti 1-1 New Caledonia
*Wednesday's semi-finals will see Papua New Guinea rewarded for their goal bonanza against Samoa with a match against Group B runners up Solomon Islands in the evening kick-off, while New Zealand will hope to continue their 100 per cent record at the 2016 tournament against New Caledonia in the early match.
As for the third-placed sides Fiji and Tahiti, their next assignment on the road to Russia will come in March 2017 when World Cup qualifying resumes in Oceania.