New Zealand and Solomon Islands take the field at Gran Hamad Stadium to play in the finals of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers – just as they did in 2017. On that occasion New Zealand beat the Bonitos in Auckland 6-1 and drew 2-2 at the Lawson Tama in Honiara – thus achieving qualification for the intercontinental playoff where they faced and lost to South America’s confederation 5th placed-side Peru.
New Zealand will probably count on the return of midfielder Marko Stamenic, who returns after being rested against Tahiti due to physical exhaustion, and may be the only change in the team that started the game against the Polynesians.
Good news for the All Whites is that the Solomon Islands are Chris Wood biggest victims – he netted 8 goals including two hattricks against their next opponents, one in the 2012 Nations Cup third-place match playoff and the other in the 2017 World Cup qualifying final.
New Zealand will have to be patient to break through the Solomon Islands’ blockade and have more patience to create the scoring opportunities, something that did not happen against Tahiti – considering the islanders will need a more defensive approach then they had in their previous matches in the competition.
The All Whites there were only two remnants left from the 2017 clashes – Chris Wood and Stefan Marinovic. After 2018 the team got younger and increased in terms quality in its squad – It is certainly a better team than the one that beat the Solomon Islands on that occasion.
As for the Solomon Islands, they have been hit hard – Javin Wae got injured against Papua New Guinea and is unlikely to play in the final, as is Alwin Hou, who got also injured against the Kapuls. Gagame Feni should replace Alwin Hou in attack while Leon Kofana should replace Wavin Jae in defense.
The Solomon Islands will have to play a perfect game to come away with a victory from Doha – New Zealand has not lost a qualifying match since 2008. Raphael Lea’i and Joses Nawo have to watch out for gaps in the New Zealand backline, something Tahiti have not been able to exploit very well. They will also need much attention than Tahiti had in semifinals, allowing New Zealand as little space as possible and stay focused for during the entire game.
New Zealand and Solomon Islands face each other at the Grand Hamad Stadium at 5pm Local Time (Doha, Qatar).