The New Zealand U-23 football team will play Fiji for a place at the London Olympics after edging Vanuatu 3-2 in Friday's semi-final of the OFC Men's Olympic Qualifiers in Taupo.
If New Zealand had any nerves heading into the semi, it didn't show as they found the net twice inside the first ten minutes on their way to a 3-0 halftime lead although there were some anxious moments late in the game as Vanuatu closed to within a goal in injury time as New Zealand took their foot off the throat.
Fiji beat Papua New Guinea 3-0 in the day's other semi-final earlier in the day to set up Sunday's showdown for Oceania's sole spot in the Olympics.
New Zealand coach Neil Emblen was happy to progress but was said his side would have to perform better if they wanted to get past Fiji and take the final step to on the road to London.
"Vanuatu played well today, played a bit more football through the thirds and played how we wanted to play, in a way," Emblen said
"We scored our goals through set plays and good organisation at the front early on.
"We thought the game was over at 3-0 and just wanted to see it out but Vanuatu came on strong in the second half and played really well.
"There are warning signs for us because we have to play better than that if we want to win on Sunday."
Louis Fenton blasted the Oly Whites in front in the fourth minute and James Musa's powerful near-post header doubled the lead and in the ninth minute from an Alex Feneridis corner.
Feneridis had a hand in New Zealand's first three goals as he also provided the looping cross field ball to put Fenton in space for his strike, and then headed down Jason Hicks' free-kick for Greg Draper to make it 3-0 midway through the first half.
Striker Dakota Lucas was still sidelined through suspension with FIFA's disciplinary committee extending his ban to two matches, so Ethan Galbraith lined up alongside Draper in a revamped front pairing. Elsewhere, the personnel was the same used in New Zealand's opening game against Papua New Guinea.
Louis Fenton nearly had a second goal when his 74th minute header bounced off the goal line and out only for Vanuatu to break and score at the other end through 17-year-old Jean Kaltack.
Sniffing the chance of an unlikely comeback, Vanuatu pressed for more goals and in the 91st minute an unmarked Kensi Tangis side-footted Ivong Wilson's free kick past Jake Gleeson.
The final kicks off at 4pm on Sunday with Papua New Guinea facing Vanuatu in the playoff for third place at 1pm.
OFC Men's Olympic Qualifiers 2012
16-24 March 2012
Owen Delany Park, Taupo, New Zealand
Friday 23 March
New Zealand 3 (Louis FENTON 6', James MUSA 9', Greg DRAPER 28')
Vanuatu 2 (Jean KALTACK 75', Kensi TANGIS 90+1')
Popular competitions and giveaways from Gimme.co.nz: NZ's People Powered Guide to Free Stuff. Links will open on Gimme.
Join Voxy on Google+.