(Reuters) - Steevy Chong Hue’s 10th minute goal gave Tahiti a 1-0 victory over New Caledonia on Sunday, securing the Oceania Nations Cup title and a place in the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil.
It is the first time that neither New Zealand nor Australia, who moved to the Asian confederation in 2006, have won the Oceania tournament, which also doubled as the second round of the region’s qualifying tournament for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.
New Caledonia had caused a major upset by beating 2010 World Cup finalists New Zealand in the semi-finals on Friday in the Solomon Islands capital of Honiara.
The All Whites finished third in the tournament after beating the Solomon Islands 4-3.
New Zealand they had blown a 3-0 halftime lead, courtesy of a Chris Wood hat-trick, as the host nation stormed back to score three goals, Benjamin Totori scoring the equalizer in the 87th minute.
Striker Shane Smeltz, however, snatched the winner in stoppage time, however, to ensure Ricki Herbert’s side salvaged some pride after a poor tournament they had been expected to win easily.
“Today was about making a small dent back in our reputation, and getting our World Cup campaign back on track,” Herbert said in a New Zealand Football (NZF) statement.
“The best thing we could do today was go out and win. The hurt (from the campaign) is not going away from me for a long time but maybe today has taken a little bit away.”
All four teams that made the semi-finals at the tournament now move to the third and final phase of Oceania qualifying, a single pool of the four teams, starting in September.
The group winner will advance to face the fourth-placed team from the Central and North American confederation (CONCACAF) in a two-legged playoff for a spot in Brazil.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Auckland; Editing by Alastair Himmer