7 Jun 2012

Sport: Solomon Islands draws with NZ, claim final playoff berth

10:37 am on 7 June 2012

Solomon Islands have claimed the final playoff berth at the Oceania Nations Cup football tournament - without kicking a ball.

Fiji's 1-1 draw against Papua New Guinea ensured the Bonitos would join New Zealand in advancing from Group B, with the final group match between the two sides merely determining in what order.

The All Whites took an early lead through Chris Wood before Bonitos talisman Benjamin Totori equalised just before the hour.

The 1-1 draw marked the first time Solomon Islands had earned a positive result against New Zealand and technical advisor Laurent Papillon says knowing they were already through to the semis helped the team relax.

"OK New Zealand didn't play with all their key players, and we protect some key players too, but now it's important to understand that New Zealand players are two legs, two arms, a body, a head - just like us. It's important to obtain this kind of result, it's important for the Solomons."

All Whites coach Ricki Herbert says he was pleased with how his new players stepped up to the task.

I think we exposed a whole, brand new team today to arguably, I think, the toughest team in the competition so it was great for them to get that level of exposure and at times it was really tough for them.

Solomon Islands will face Group A winners, Tahiti will in Friday's opening semi final, while Group B winners New Zealand will face New Caledonia.