versus Vanuatu

Socceroos coach Frank Farina acknowledged the gap with the island nations was indeed closing but was satisfied his side was able to hold their shape and discipline against an impressive Vanuatu side at Ericsson Stadium on Saturday.

The young Vanuatu team had a fair amount of possession but was unable to convert this into points, while the Socceroos were able to absorb the pressure to score two late goals through Damien Mori and Bobby Despotovski. To Vanuatušs credit they dominated in the midfield exchanges which surprised everybody except Farina and captain Steve Horvat who both admitted afterwards that they knew exactly what to expect going by the teamšs last meeting two years ago in Papeete, Tahiti.

Vanuatu coach Carlos Buzzetti was hugely disappointed to have conceded goals late in the game after being on equal terms for much of the match. However, he commended his players for their effort and set his sights on winning the remaining two group matches to hopefully qualify for the semi-finals.

For Vanuatu, Wilkins Simon Lauru had an impressive all-round game with goalkeeper David Chilia also showing his experience. Farina said there would be changes after this game due to the busy schedule that sees three matches in five days.

versus New Caledonia

Australian Socceroos coach Frank Farina was not getting carried away with his side's comprehensive 11-0 win over New Caledonia at Ericsson Stadium on Monday night.

He remarked afterwards the win itself was more important than the amount of goals scored. The score perhaps did not reflect fairly on the New Caledonians who did show touches of flair and even launched a few attacks of their own. Captain Jean Marc Case was one of the standouts in both attack and defence.

Farina's troops were clinical in their finishing but were helped by the New Caledonians reluctance to apply themselves fully in defence, which saw some gift goals handed to the Socceroos.

Farina added he was most pleased with his player's concentration and discipline. "The other most pleasing aspect was they did the simple things well," he said.

Debutant Bobby Depotovoski was the star of the match scoring four goals. The Socceroos only overseas-based player Scott Chipperfield was also impressive with a brace of goals to his name.

New Caledonia coach Martinengo Serge De Novack was visibly disappointed with his team's performance claiming the Socceroos were just "too big and too fast" and were constantly on the ball which made it difficult for his players. He explained his team was unable to cope with the level of play the Socceroos were playing at. The Socceroos certainly looked a better side than the one that struggled to a 2-0 win over Vanuatu in their first match.

versus Fiji

Veteran Fiji coach Billy Singh expressed disappointment at the lack of commitment shown by his players as they were put to the sword by an efficient Australian team at Ericsson Stadium on Wednesday night. The Socceroos inflicted one of the heaviest defeats Fiji has suffered scoring eight unanswered goals; young Joel Porter scoring four goals. With that victory, Australia easily takes out Group A honours and now advances to Friday's semi-final against Group B runner up Tahiti.

Singh indicated he may call it a day after a successful fifteen year reign, but told reporters at the after match press conference that the right candidate must be found first. Reports link former Australian coach Les Scheinflug to the job but that has yet to be confirmed. However, Singh was searching for answers to his team's lacklustre performance. He said the players were provided "incentives" to win. He described the current team as better than the one that pushed the Socceroos close at last year's World Cup Qualifiers, but the difference was last year's team showed more commitment.

Singh admitted it had been hard to motivate the team after their loss to Vanuatu and especially after Vanuatu beat New Caledonia in the early match. That meant Fiji could not settle for a draw but had to win.

Captain Esala Masi was also disappointed with the team's performance and hinted a changing of the guard was on the cards if Fiji was to regain its status as the top island nation.

Frank Farina said the team was a different side to the one he faced last year and indicated that Singh's troops may have been deflated mentally after the loss to Vanuatu a few days earlier.

Again, he expressed satisfaction with the commitment of his players. The Socceroos have certainly ironed out any deficiencies exposed by Vanuatu in their first match and are going from strength to strength. On attack they are as clinical as a surgeon's knife and on defence their goal has rarely been threatened.

On scoring four goals, Joel Porter said he was "ecstatic" with his performance and remarked it is a "honour to be here."

versus Tahiti

The reigning Oceania champs Australia almost contemplated an embarrassing scenario in playing for the third and fourth place playoff preceding Sunday's final. However, in bizarre circumstances two minutes from full-time, Tahitian goalkeeper Xavier Samin - who had been brilliant all night - failed to control a shot taken from a free kick, which allowed Mehmed Durakovic to follow up and slot the shot home saving the Socceroos from their worst ever defeat since 1988.

Super-sub Joel Porter was a big part in the Socceroos comeback bringing relief to his countryman and especially coach Frank Farina who admitted afterwards they had "got out of jail". But for much of the match, Tahiti had looked to have had the measure of the Socceroos employing appropriate tactics to stem the Socceroos attacking options; at the same time being able to execute several counter-attacking moves.

Tahiti's Teva Zaveroni latched on to a superb pass from a throw-in. His shot seemed tainted with a tinge of luck taking an unorthodox route to the goal, which left the Socceroos stunned, especially goalkeeper Jason Petkovic. This sent the Tahitian bench into raptures and suddenly brought the small crowd to life. From there on in, the crowd seemed to urge on the Tahitians to victory; even the New Zealand All Whites finding it hard to take their eyes of the game as they awaited their own semi-final that was to follow.

As the minutes ticked by, the frustrated Socceroos conceded two late yellow cards to Tom Pondeljak and Angelo Constanzo. The Tahitians ate up every desperate attempt for the equalizer.

As the rain fell in the second half, nobody would have thought it was to play a part in the final act. With defeat imminent, New Zealand referee Derek Rugg awarded the Socceroos a free kick just outside the box slightly to the left side. The shot found Samin's trusty hands, which for that fatal moment failed to latch on to the ball this time ­ no doubt the rain contributing to this. The crowd gasped when the ball spilled out of his hands which Durakovic immediately capitalized on like a kid in a candy store.

With the match drawn level, the life seemed to dweeb from the Tahitian cause. Not long after the whistle signaled extra-time. In the sixth minute of extra-time, Damian Mori scored the inevitable golden goal just seconds after his first attempt was saved by Samin. A distraught Tahitian coach Jacquemet rued the missed opportunity to create history, but hailed his players for their gutsy performance. Farina admitted his players could not have played any worse and the wake-up call would provide motivation to their final against New Zealand All Whites where it appears they may be the underdogs.

versus New Zealand

The All Whites booked themselves a place in next yearšs Confederations Cup Finals, but more importantly they pushed the gamešs profile up in New Zealand up another notch following on from the huge interest generated during the 2002 FIFA World Cup last month in Korea/Japan.

Ryan Nelsenšs 78 minute goal from a wonderfully taken free kick by Simon Elliot won the match for the All Whites. Australiašs Socceroos had dominated the first half with midfielder Scott Chipperfield in superb attacking form. Possibly one of the gamešs defining points was Jason Battyšs brilliant save after the Socceroos had broken through. Joel Porteršs shot from almost point blank range could have given the Socceroos the decisive lead but instead the All Whites grew another leg in confidence.

In the second half, the All Whites slowly absorbed the sustained Socceroos pressure. And as Socceroos coach Frank Farina had feared, the All Whites proved lethal from the set-pieces. Nelsenšs goal moved Farina to make three desperate changes but the late rally failed to produce the equalizer. There was to be no repeat of their semi-final come from behind win against Tahiti. Not even four minutes added stoppage time was enough and with the final whistle, the crowd of close to 4,000 let out a resounding roar of celebration.

Afterwards, the two coaches were a contrast in expressions. Farinašs sullen look reflected the significance of the loss to Australia. He alluded to the result being a product of the shoddy buildup the team had experienced which resulted in only one of their overseas based players being available. Waitt could not find the words but the smile said it all. He applauded the character of the players to turn around a mediocre first half and score the decisive goal.

All Whites Midfielder Mark Burton was later named the Epson Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award. Epson NZ General Manager, Mr Greg Skinner, made the presentation before the final press conference. The OFC Nations Cup was presented to the All Whites by Oceania Football Confederation president, Basil Scarsella.