After both Vanuatu and Cook Islands were forced out of the OFC World Cup Qualifiers due a COVID-19 outbreak in their squads, Solomon Islands and Tahiti – the remaining teams that composes the Group A of the qualyfing tournament – were awarded the spots directly to the semifinal stage. The 2-0 win of Solomon Islands against the Cook Islands in the first matchday of the tournament will not count for the group standings, as mentioned by the Oceania Football Confederation, since Cook Islands were forced to withdrew from the competition. Although, the match will count for the FIFA Rankings.
With only two teams remaining in the process, both Tahiti and Solomon Islands will have a decisive encounter to determine which of the two sides will top the group this Thursday (24th March). Despite both teams already granted a spot in the decisive part of the competition, this match means a lot for their aspirations to qualify for the intercontinental playoff: the winner will avoid New Zealand – that is likely to finish at the top of Group B – in the semifinals. Undoubtely, the All Whites are the heavy favourites to win the qualifying tournament and meeting them at the semifinal stage is something certainly both sides would like to keep away from.
The Confederation also stated that this match will be played in a playoff format – if no winner is observed during the 90 minutes, extra-time will be played and if the match still continues levelled a penalty shoot-out will take place.
This match will be the first for the Tahitians in the tournament; the team coached by Samuel Garcia had a good preparation process in France before arriving in Qatar. The team captained by Teaonui Tehau may be missing some game time in comparison to Solomon Islands – that played against Cook Islands despite the match being null for the tournament after the their withdrawal as explained above.
The team captain of Solomon Islands is probrably the most known player of the team coached by the Spaniard Felipe Vega-Arango; Micah Lea’alafa, a former Auckland City star player, is convinced this is the best national team group he has ever played for Solomon Islands and will be sharing the star-status alongside the wonderkid Raphael Lea’i.
The fans of Oceania football can watch the match live on Eleven Sports platform – be sure the check the kick-off time in your region by visiting the website.