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Moment of truth for Olympic hopefuls

A total of 13 matches will be played at Owen Delany Park with American Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu all trying to keep their Olympic dreams alive.

The countries have been divided into two pools and will compete in a round-robin format with the group stage followed by semi-finals and a final, the winner of which will go on to represent Oceania in the Men’s Football Tournament at the 2012 Olympic Games, to be held in London from July 25 to August 11.

Three matches a day will be played in Taupo on the 16th, 18th and 20th of March, with kick-offs set for 12pm, 2.30pm and 5pm (local time). The semi-finals will be held on March 22 at 1pm and 4pm while the 3rd/4th play-off and final will take place on March 24, also at 1pm and 4pm respectively.

Tickets can be purchased from the gate on game days and are priced at $10 for adults and $5 for teenagers/over-65s, while ages 12 and under can enter for free.

The tournament marks the first time since 1996 that a New Zealand-based OFC event has been held outside of Auckland and the home side is likely to receive plenty of support from fans in a region that has seldom seen international action. The hosts have been drawn in Group B and will take on Papua New Guinea and Tonga while the four-team Group A features American Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.

New Zealand’s ‘Oly Whites’ are the favourites to qualify for London and are expected to progress smoothly from Group B, leaving Papua New Guinea and Tonga to fight it out for the second semi-final place. Group A is far more difficult to predict as Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are all strong footballing nations and the stocks of American Samoa, traditionally the underdogs at tournaments such as these, are at an all-time high following the senior national team’s historic exploits in the Stage 1 qualifying tournament for the 2014 FIFA World Cup last November.

Neil Emblen’s Oly Whites are without several of their overseas-based professionals but have still been able to include the likes of Marco Rojas, Jake Gleeson and Greg Draper, who have all been capped by their country at senior level, while James Musa and Cameron Lindsay have both experienced A-League action with the Wellington Phoenix.

Fullback Ian Hogg is yet to turn professional or be capped at senior level but has just returned from a trial in Sweden and played every minute of New Zealand’s Olympic Games debut in Beijing four years ago.

None of the other countries have such experience to call upon but still possess enough talent to pose a serious threat to New Zealand’s favouritism with serious challenges likely to come from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu in particular.

2012 London Olympic GamesA total of 13 matches will be played at Owen Delany Park with American Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu all trying to keep their Olympic dreams alive.

The countries have been divided into two pools and will compete in a round-robin format with the group stage followed by semi-finals and a final, the winner of which will go on to represent Oceania in the Men’s Football Tournament at the 2012 Olympic Games, to be held in London from July 25 to August 11.

Three matches a day will be played in Taupo on the 16th, 18th and 20th of March, with kick-offs set for 12pm, 2.30pm and 5pm (local time). The semi-finals will be held on March 22 at 1pm and 4pm while the 3rd/4th play-off and final will take place on March 24, also at 1pm and 4pm respectively.

Tickets can be purchased from the gate on game days and are priced at $10 for adults and $5 for teenagers/over-65s, while ages 12 and under can enter for free.

The tournament marks the first time since 1996 that a New Zealand-based OFC event has been held outside of Auckland and the home side is likely to receive plenty of support from fans in a region that has seldom seen international action. The hosts have been drawn in Group B and will take on Papua New Guinea and Tonga while the four-team Group A features American Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.

New Zealand’s ‘Oly Whites’ are the favourites to qualify for London and are expected to progress smoothly from Group B, leaving Papua New Guinea and Tonga to fight it out for the second semi-final place. Group A is far more difficult to predict as Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are all strong footballing nations and the stocks of American Samoa, traditionally the underdogs at tournaments such as these, are at an all-time high following the senior national team’s historic exploits in the Stage 1 qualifying tournament for the 2014 FIFA World Cup last November.

Neil Emblen’s Oly Whites are without several of their overseas-based professionals but have still been able to include the likes of Marco Rojas, Jake Gleeson and Greg Draper, who have all been capped by their country at senior level, while James Musa and Cameron Lindsay have both experienced A-League action with the Wellington Phoenix.

Fullback Ian Hogg is yet to turn professional or be capped at senior level but has just returned from a trial in Sweden and played every minute of New Zealand’s Olympic Games debut in Beijing four years ago.

None of the other countries have such experience to call upon but still possess enough talent to pose a serious threat to New Zealand’s favouritism with serious challenges likely to come from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu in particular.

2012 London Olympic Games

Oceania Men’s Qualifiers

Venue: Taupo, New Zealand
Dates: 16-24 March 2012
Teams: American Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu
Format: Centralised tournament based on a league system with semi-finals and a final
Tickets: $10 adults, $5 teenagers and over-65s (free for children 12 and under)

The winner will qualify for the Men’s Football Tournament at the 2012 London Olympics

History

1984

OFC was first recognised by FIFA in 1966 but it wasn’t until 1984 that Oceania teams took part in Olympic qualifiers, initially via AFC. While Australia did not take part, New Zealand finished ahead of Japan and Taiwan before suffering defeats to Bahrain, Kuwait and South Korea in stage two.

1988

Oceania and Asia were again joined for the preliminaries with Israel also taking part despite not having an official affiliation to any confederation. Australia eventually finished above New Zealand, Taiwan and Israel to qualify for Seoul 1988.

1992

Fiji hosted the first standalone OFC Men’s Olympic Qualifier in 1992 with a four-team tournament involving Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. Australia claimed the title and went on to secure a famous victory over the Netherlands in the home-and-away play-off.

1996

In 1996, the Olyroos saw off the challenge of New Zealand, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu in the stage one qualifier, which they hosted, before defeating CONCACAF’s Canada over two matches to advance to Atlanta.

2000

With Australia receiving direct entry as hosts, the OFC qualifiers included seven other Pacific nations. New Zealand finished top to earn the right to play fourth-placed CAF team South Africa but eventually lost the home-and-away play-off.

2004

A record 10 teams took part in the 2004 edition with Australia and New Zealand finishing top of their respective pools. It also marked the first time OFC had direct entry into the Olympics with the green-and-golds overcoming New Zealand 3-1 on aggregate to qualify for Athens.

2008

The OFC Men’s Olympic Qualifier took place in Fiji for the second time with six teams competing in a round-robin format. With Australia now part of AFC, th
e Oly Whites emerged as victors and went on to represent OFC at the Olympics for the first time.

Oceania Men’s Qualifiers

Venue: Taupo, New Zealand
Dates: 16-24 March 2012
Teams: American Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu
Format: Centralised tournament based on a league system with semi-finals and a final
Tickets: $10 adults, $5 teenagers and over-65s (free for children 12 and under)

The winner will qualify for the Men’s Football Tournament at the 2012 London Olympics

History

1984
OFC was first recognised by FIFA in 1966 but it wasn’t until 1984 that Oceania teams took part in Olympic qualifiers, initially via AFC. While Australia did not take part, New Zealand finished ahead of Japan and Taiwan before suffering defeats to Bahrain, Kuwait and South Korea in stage two.

1988
Oceania and Asia were again joined for the preliminaries with Israel also taking part despite not having an official affiliation to any confederation. Australia eventually finished above New Zealand, Taiwan and Israel to qualify for Seoul 1988.

1992
Fiji hosted the first standalone OFC Men’s Olympic Qualifier in 1992 with a four-team tournament involving Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. Australia claimed the title and went on to secure a famous victory over the Netherlands in the home-and-away play-off.

1996
In 1996, the Olyroos saw off the challenge of New Zealand, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu in the stage one qualifier, which they hosted, before defeating CONCACAF’s Canada over two matches to advance to Atlanta.

2000
With Australia receiving direct entry as hosts, the OFC qualifiers included seven other Pacific nations. New Zealand finished top to earn the right to play fourth-placed CAF team South Africa but eventually lost the home-and-away play-off.

2004
A record 10 teams took part in the 2004 edition with Australia and New Zealand finishing top of their respective pools. It also marked the first time OFC had direct entry into the Olympics with the green-and-golds overcoming New Zealand 3-1 on aggregate to qualify for Athens.

2008
The OFC Men’s Olympic Qualifier took place in Fiji for the second time with six teams competing in a round-robin format. With Australia now part of AFC, the Oly Whites emerged as victors and went on to represent OFC at the Olympics for the first time.

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