New Zealand under-17 footballers move within one win of World Cup qualification
The New Zealand under-17 men's football side have moved within one win of qualifying for October's World Cup in India.
Courtesy of a late Charles Spragg goal, they picked up a 2-1 win over the Solomon Islands on Thursday, which means they will advance to the semifinals of the Oceania Championships in Tahiti.
After beating Samoa 11-0 at Stade Pater on Monday, they had a tougher time in their second match at the same venue, held to a stalemate for most of the second half after taking an early lead.
Jake Williams had put them in front in just the third minute, meeting a long throw at the back post, but that was all the Kiwis managed in the first half, and just two minutes into the second spell, the Solomon Islands found an equaliser, when Junior Kaoni pounced on a miscued clearance and fired past keeper Zac Jones.
Both sides made a good fist of trying to find a winner, but eventually it was New Zealand who prevailed, when Spragg, on as a substitute, followed up a Max Mata shot that had rebounded off the crossbar in the 84th minute, scoring his fifth goal of the tournament.
The win leaves New Zealand top of Group B with 6 points, two ahead of Fiji, who beat Samoa 3-0 on Thursday.
New Zealand play Fiji in their final game on Sunday, but are already assured of qualifying for the semifinals.
Both finalists qualify for October's World Cup in India, which means they are now just one win away from a sixth consecutive appearance at that event.
With two games gone in Group A, it is New Caledonia and Tahiti who lead the way, each on four points, ahead of Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, who each have one.
With New Caledonia playing Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea playing Tahiti in the final round on Saturday, there's a chance that group could yet finish in a four-way tie.
AT A GLANCE
Oceania Under-17 Championship
Group B, Rd 2
New Zealand 2 (Williams, Spragg) beat the Solomon Islands 1 (Kaoni)