OFC Nations Cup

Altan Ramadan Toffa Leave a Comment

Rory Fallon celebrates scoring for the All Whites against Fiji during the OFC Nations Cup Opener

Why the All Whites Need to Win the Oceania Nations Cup
The last 12 months have been a desperate time for All Whites football fans.

The eligibility debacle of the Olympic qualifiers, just three away games for the All Whites and a current FIFA ranking of 161, wedged between the Maldives (currently coached by Ricki Herbert, population 345,000) and Guam (population 162,000) – it hasn’t been a champagne year.

The importance of winning the Oceania Nations Cup cannot be overstated.  The tournament provides a chance to reboot New Zealand Football and the All Whites.

Unfortunately for the All Whites the challenges of the tournament (May 28-June 11) will be as much about the conditions as the opponents.  Two weeks in Papua New Guinea will be a true test of the squad.

Whoever wins the final in Port Moresby on 11 June will prevail on a pitch that will have seen 15 matches played on it in 15 days.   With temperatures around 33C and daily rain, expect the pitch to be looking a little rough around the edges come the day of the final.

It’s Not Easy to Win in the Pacific Islands
There is a reason that the All Blacks don’t play many matches in the Pacific Islands.  Money and TV rights is part of the rationale but it is also very tough to win in the heat, on hard grounds in a relatively unfamiliar environment in front of partisan home fans.

Of the last three Oceania Nations Cup New Zealand has only won one.

In 2012 New Caledonia 2-0 rolled the All Whites at semi-final stage with Tahiti being the ultimate champion.

In the 2004 iteration of the tournament New Zealand was upset 4-2 by Vanuatu (the only goals that Vanuatu scored in the tournament) and finished 3rd behind Australia and the Solomon Islands.

The Kiwis came through as champions in 2008 but that was a round-robin format.  The nature of playoff football is quite a different challenge.  A bad day in the later stages of the tournament and the outcome is the next plane home.

Winners Go to the Confederations Cup
The prize is a big one – passage to the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia.  For a country based in the Oceania confederation this is truly like winning the golden ticket to the big time.

The Confederations Cup guarantees at least three high quality matches and probable warm-up clashes against another two of the participating countries or local premier clubs.

Current qualifiers include Russia (hosts), Germany (World Champions), Chile (South America champions), Mexico (North/Central America champions), DR Congo (Africa champions) and Australia (Asia champions).

The European champions will be decided on Monday 11 July NZ time at final of the European Championships in France.  Should Germany or Russia win the tournament then the runner-up qualifies.

Matches the All Whites Need
If New Zealand was to pay a match fee to play just one of the countries at the Confederations Cup it would need to fork out US$500K-US$1.5M.  This includes fees and host expenses/travel and that’s assuming that those countries actually wanted to play New Zealand.

Winning the Oceania Nations Cup effectively provides a roster of matches worth around US$5M-US$8M to the champion – a massive bonus in preparing for qualification for the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia.

These Confederations Cup associated matches provide profile and world class opposition.

For those reasons, New Zealand simply must win the Oceania Nations Cup.  Failure, on this occasion, is simply not an option.

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