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New Zealand take full points into semis

Fiji advance to the Stage 3 of Oceania’s 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifying after finishing in third place in the group despite losing their final group match to Vanuatu who go home with their final 3-2 victory as a consolation prize.# #Knowing that a win against Vanuatu would virtually guarantee their progression to the final four, Fiji went into the final round of the group stage with high hopes.# #Frank Farina’s men had every reason to be confident given their opponents had lost their opening two matches without scoring a goal and conceding six times at the other end.# #Fiji captain Roy Krishna came within inches of opening the scoring early on in the piece with a close-range header in the eighth minute.# #His miss proved costly as Vanuatu took the lead 11 minutes later courtesy of Dominique Fred who flicked past the keeper with the outside of his right foot following a pass from skipper Fenedy Masauvakalo.# #Masauvakalo then doubled his side’s advantage by slotting home from close range after rounding the Fijian keeper Benaminio Mateinaqara in the 41st minute.# #Farina made a double substitution at the stroke of the restart and the changes seemed to have worked when his side pulled a goal back through a well taken strike by Samuela Kautoga just six minutes later.# #The Fijians were back on level terms in the 69th minute when Krishna headed home a Iosefo Verevou cross.# #Despite the momentum turning in Fiji’s favour, Vanuatu fought back to grab a 75th minute winner after Brian Kaltack converted from the penalty spot.# #With the increasing possibility that goal difference would decide the outcome of the group, Kaltack lamented his side’s wastefulness in front of goal.# #“We started early with high confidence but we just missed a lot of goals and most of the players were just finding it a bit hard to score,” he said.# #“I’m happy with the goal I put in but I did miss a lot myself too. If we have another chance I just have to get myself more confident to score.” #Farina meanwhile admitted his side had no reason to complain about the result.# #“I think we deserved what we got in the first half. We didn’t turn up for the first 45 minutes and we were 2-0 down and deservedly so,” he said.# #“The second half was a different story, I think we gave a few chances away at the end there but it was a great comeback. But you’ve got to play 90 minutes of football you can’t play just 45. On the whole of the game probably Vanuatu deserved to win.”# #Knowing that goal difference could heavily influence their fate in the competition, Solomon Islands started cautiously against New Zealand.# #The All Whites, who had already secured their place in the final four, made seven changes to the side that defeated Vanuatu 5-0 in the previous round.# #Despite the changes, New Zealand were quick to settle into their rhythm to dictate the tempo of the game. They also controlled both territory and ball possession for the majority of the game, restricting the Solomon Islanders to counter attacks.# #Determined to finish the group stage with three wins from as many games, the Kiwis pressed forward in numbers.# #Their persistence paid dividends in the 80th minute when Luke Adams headed home from close range for his maiden senior international goal.# #Hitting their opponents on the break, Solomon Islands looked well in control at times giving New Zealand goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic his best test of the tournament so far.# #While it was a nervy end to the game for Solomons supporters the team held firm in the final minutes to secure passage into the semi-finals ahead of Fiji and Vanuatu on goal difference.# #Solomon Islands captain Henry Fa’arodo heaped praise on his teammates for their efforts# #“I think for us, coming into this game we knew how important it was and we knew what was at stake for us as well. I think we came out there and at least a draw would have been enough for us but we wanted to win,” he said.# #“I think the character and the belief that the boys had in them was the difference today with how the boys fought for each other. All credit to the boys, it was a big game for us and we did well.”# #Winning coach Anthony Hudson was equally happy with his side’s performance.# #“I’m very pleased with the nine points. I thought today was a professional performance and I’m pleased with the clean sheet. Overall it was a solid performance,” the New Zealand coach said.# #“It was tough, when a team sits back and defends and just tries to hit you on the break, it was always going to be a tough game. We just had to stay tight, stay disciplined and organised and as I say, these games if you can just keep a clean sheet and win one we’re really happy with that.”

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