New Zealand under-17 men’s footballers suffer historic loss to the Solomon Islands
13 September, 2018, 9:35 pm
HONIARA,13 SEPTEMBER 2018 (STUFF NZ) – The New Zealand under-17 men’s football team have suffered the country’s worst loss to a Pacific Island nation.
They were beaten 5-0 by the Solomon Islands at their Lawson Tama Stadium home in Honiara on Wednesday, during group play at the Oceania Under-16 Championship.
New Zealand’s only previous on-field loss at age-group level since Australia left the region in 2006 was in the Oceania Under-20 Championship in 2008, when a team playing most of the game with 10 men went down 2-1 to Tahiti.
The under-23 men’s team had a win over Vanuatu turned into a loss during Olympic qualifying in 2015 after fielding an ineligible player.
At senior level, the All Whites have had two losses in the past 12 years, to Fiji with an under-strength team in a dead rubber in 2008, and to New Caledonia in the semifinals of the Oceania Nations Cup in 2012.
The loss left New Zealand under-17 coach Jose Figueira stunned at the Solomon side’s excellent performance.
“I think it will be a game that we won’t forget,” he said. “This is a tremendous learning experience for our boys against a really powerful, attacking team that is pretty relentless.”
Solomon Islands coach Stanley Waita said: “It is a massive win for us. My message to my boys was we had nothing to lose, so we play positive and attack at all times, I am proud of them as they did what I told them to.”
The Solomon’s star was Raphael Le’ai, who starred in the OFC Youth Futsal Tournament last year in New Zealand where he scored a staggering 35 goals. He delivered on that promise by controlling the game with his fast feet and pace, and scored two goals in a standout display.
Despite the historic defeat, the New Zealand under-17 team will advance to the semifinals with a draw or a win in their final group game, against Papua New Guinea on Friday.
There they will likely face Fiji or Tahiti from the other group, with a place at next year’s World Cup in Peru on offer to the winner, as both finalists qualify.
New Zealand has qualified for every Fifa Under-17 World Cup since Australia left the region in 2006.
The only time it has failed to qualify for a Fifa Under-20 World Cup was when it lost to Tahiti during qualifying in 2008.