New Caledonia upset defending champion New Zealand 2-0 to set up a matchup with Tahiti in the Oceania Nations Cup soccer final.
The winner of the June 10 game in Honiara, Solomon Islands, will become the first Pacific Island nation to compete at FIFA’s Confederations Cup, which takes place next year in Brazil. New Zealand, the only unbeaten team at the 2010 World Cup, had been seeking its fourth appearance at the event.
“I’m hugely disappointed,” New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert said in comments released by New Zealand Football. “I’ve had 52 games in charge and this is one of the worst moments. One little blessing is that the World Cup qualifiers are still there and we get a World Cup shot.”
The finalists, New Zealand and Solomon Islands advanced to the next phase of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The four teams will play a round-robin from Sept. 7 to March 26, 2013, with the winner advancing to a home-and-away playoff against the fourth-ranked team from the North, Central America and Caribbean region for a World Cup berth.
It will be the first time in the Oceania Nations Cup’s nine editions that a team other than New Zealand or Australia has won the title. Australia is no longer involved, having quit Oceania in 2006 to join the Asian Football Confederation.