Alex Greive and Chris Wood both scored doubles as New Zealand made it three wins from three in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Oceania Qualifiers by claiming a 7-1 win over New Caledonia at the Suheim bin Hamad Stadium in Qatar.
With New Zealand already through to the semi-finals, coach Danny Hay took the opportunity to make nine changes from the side that defeated Fiji 4-0 in their last fixture including young goalkeeper Jamie Searle making his All Whites debut.
Dominque Wacalie also changed things up for New Caledonia, with seven changes to the side that lost to Papua New Guinea last time out.
Two of the new faces in New Zealand’s starting eleven combined to give Hay’s side the lead after eight minutes. Joe Champness produced a clever stepover out wide before his low cross was delicately flicked beyond Jean-Gilles Hnamuko in the New Caledonia goal by Alex Greive for his first international goal on his first start.
New Caledonia bounced back almost immediately. New Zealand only cleared a threatening corner as far as Joris Kenon who delivered a perfect half-volley cross onto the head of Jean-Philippe Saiko who powered the ball beyond despairing debutant Searle. Saiko’s towering effort is the first goal conceded by New Zealand in the tournament and was just reward for a bright start from New Caledonia.
After the frenetic opening 15 minutes the game settled into a pattern, with New Zealand happy to keep possession and probe the New Caledonia defence when possible whilst Wacalie’s side looked to break fast with quick ground passing.
It was New Zealand who nearly found themselves back in front after 23 minutes. Good work from Logan Rogerson out wide found Champness at the back-post but his effort was kept out by a combination of Hnamuko’s reaction save and Joseph Athale’s last-ditch clearance.
Despite already being out of the competition, following defeats to Fiji and Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia continued to threaten, with pressure from Kenon almost causing an error from Searle.
However, it was New Zealand who retook the lead. Greive again proved dangerous in the box eventually being brought down by Vincent Vakie leaving referee Norbert Hauata with no choice but to award the penalty which Rogerson dutifully dispatched.
Rogerson soon had a chance to double his tally but headed wide under pressure from Athale but New Zealand soon had a two-goal advantage.
It was Greive again, shining on his first international start, who took advantage of an unfortunate slip from Vakie in defence to race onto Tommy Smith’s long-range pass and slot the ball into the back of the net for 3-1.
Both sides continued to pose questions of each other in the second-half.
Saiko threatened in the air for New Caledonia whilst Greive was denied his hat-trick by an onrushing Hnamuko before being replaced by record-scorer Chris Wood as Hay began ringing the changes with the semi-finals in mind.
Wood then played a role in New Zealand’s fourth. His close-range effort was well saved by Hnamuko but fellow substitute Andre de Jong was on hand to touch into an empty net.
Bill Tuiloma, another of New Zealand’s replacements, then headed home a Joe Bell corner before Wood bagged a brace to seal the win.
New Zealand will now face Tahiti in the semi-finals after their 3-1 defeat to Solomon Islands saw them finish second in Group A whilst New Caledonia finish bottom of Group B