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Jun 10, 2012

Minnows Tahiti revel in OFC triumph

A 10th minute strike from Steevy Chong Hue handed Tahiti victory over New Caledonia, the Oceania Nations Cup title and a slot in the prestigious 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil.

Tahiti's victory represents the first time neither Australia nor New Zealand has won the Oceania equivalent of the European Championships since they joined the Asian confederation in 2006.

Hue volleyed home after a cross was flicked to him by Jonathan Tehau and Tahiti held on to spark wild celebrations at the Lawson Tama Stadium in the Solomon Islands.

"It's unbelievable, completely incredible," Tahiti coach Eddy Etaeta Etaeta said. "This path started 12 years ago and now we have finally achieved our goal and will go to the Confederations Cup.

"We may play against the likes of Brazil and Spain which will be amazing for our country. We will enjoy this moment for now and then start planning towards the future."

New Caledonia coach Alain Moizan was left to rue his side's host of missed chances. "You have to score goals to win," he said. "Tahiti had two chances and they scored one. We had more chances than them but couldn't score and that was the difference. But we have to congratulate Tahiti, they won all their matches and deserve to be champions."

Tahiti become the first Pacific Island team ever to lift the trophy and will take their place at the FIFA tournament that pits the champions of each confederation against each other.

In the third place play-off New Zealand beat the Solomon Islands 4-3. The Kiwis were 3-0 up at half time thanks to a Chris Wood hat-trick but the hosts clawed their way back and levelled thanks to an 87th minute goal from Benjamin Totori.

But striker Shane Smeltz grabbed an injury time winner to spare New Zealand's blushes after they were beaten in the semi-finals by New Caledonia.

"Today was about making a small dent back in our reputation, and getting our World Cup campaign back on track," New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert said.

"The best thing we could do today was go out and win. The hurt (from the campaign) is not going away from me for a long time but maybe today has taken a little bit away."

All the teams who made the final four of the competition also go into the third and final stage of Oceania's World Cup qualification, that starts in September.

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