Striker Ben Waine has been in prolific goal-scoring form to help New Zealand progress to Saturday’s final at the OFC Men’s Olympic Qualifier tournament in Fiji.Des Buckingham’s men have won all their previous four games on their way to the decider and Waine has contributed with seven goals to New Zealand’s impressive tally of 28.The 18-year-old Wellington Phoenix forward, who was part of the New Zealand squad at the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland and scored a double against Honduras, is relishing his chance on the international stage.Following his side’s 6-1 semi-final win over Fiji, in which Waine was again on target as well as providing three assists, he couldn’t hide his delight.“Not a bad performance, it’s good to get a goal and help set up your teammates but, more importantly, it was a good team performance,” he said.“In the first half we worked hard, in the second half we had to scrap it out a bit more but we happily did that and we’ve worked until the 90th minute.”Waine admits the match played in stifling conditions was a tough challenge and that it was difficult to handle the heat and the humidity of Lautoka.“To be honest I’ve never played in something like that, it’s my first time playing football in the islands and I’m still getting used to it, it’s insane,” he explained.
Despite some of the challenges, Waine insists the team is focused on their goal of reaching next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo and everybody is willing to give all they have to fulfil those dreams.With only one Oceania spot up for grabs, New Zealand will face Solomon Islands in the final of the qualifiers at Churchill Park in a rematch of the Group A encounter between the teams, which ended in a 4-2 win for the Kiwis.Waine is adamant his side will be ready.“The reason we’re here is to get to the Olympics and we are now just one game away. We have worked hard and have done very well, winning four out of four games. Win one more and we’ll be in Tokyo next year,” he said.
Match Details New Zealand vs Solomon IslandsOFC Men’s Olympic Qualifier FinalSaturday 5 October, 3pm local time (4pm NZT)Churchill Park, LautokaLive streaming via www.oceaniafootball.comNew Zealand (from): 1. Cameron Brown (GK), 2. Jordan Spain, 3. Dylan de Jong, 4. Hunter Ashworth, 5. Robert Tipelu, 6. Dane Schnell, 7. Myer Bevan, 8. Jake Porter, 9. Logan Rogerson (c), 10. Clayton Lewis, 11. Ollie Whyte, 12. Conor Tracey (GK), 13. Liberato Cacace, 14. Billy Jones, 15. Sean Liddicoat, 16. Gianni Stensness, 17. Callan Elliot, 18. Ben Waine, 19. Noah Billingsley, 20. Alex Paulsen (GK)Coach: Des BuckinghamStory courtesy of OFC MediaArticle added: Thursday 03 October 2019