Darren Bazeley’s Oly Whites will represent Oceania at the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics after a comprehensive 9-0 win over Fiji in the OFC Men’s Olympic Qualifier final at North Harbour Stadium in Auckland.
Two goals in the first six minutes set the tone for the match as the rampant New Zealanders dominated from the outset and outclassed their opponents who struggled to keep their composure with poor discipline letting them down.
New Zealand made the perfect start, taking the lead in the 3rd minute through Riley Bidois from the penalty spot after Nabil Begg brought Luis Toomey down in the box. It was a rash challenge with Toomey’s back to the goal.
Bidois had his second three minutes later after Jesse Randall crossed into the box, the young striker nodding the ball past Aydin Mustahib in the Fiji goal.
Randall skipped clear of the Fijian defence and bent a shot just over the cross bar in the 16th minute. Three minutes later Bidois had his hat-trick, sliding in to finish after a run down the left from Randall who squared the ball across the goal for the no.9 to slot home.
Etonia Dogalau had Fiji’s first real chance in the 23rd minute running onto a lovely through ball but lacking the finish required as he tried to chip the onrushing New Zealand goalkeeper, Alex Paulsen.
It went from bad to worse for Fiji who were reduced to 10 men in the 32nd minute when Mohammed Raheem was sent off for a second yellow card after lunging and collecting the legs of Randall in the box. Randall converted from the spot leaving the Fijians forced to play the remaining two thirds of the match a player down.
Bidois was the star of the show and added his fourth and the Kiwis’ fifth on the stroke of half-time, taking the ball down superbly in the area and smashing home leaving Mustahib with no chance.
The onslaught continued in the second half with Liam Gillion scoring New Zealand’s sixth with a brilliant free-kick from the edge of the box placed in the top corner of the net.
The outstanding Bidois scored his fifth goal in the 63rd minute, glancing in from a corner before being substituted with 20 minutes remaining.
Fiji conceded an own goal via Inoke Turagalailai in the 78th minute as New Zealand continued to put the Fijian defence under pressure. Substitute Keegan Kelly then got in on the goalscoring act eight minutes from time to round out a superb performance from Bazeley’s side.