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All Whites prepare for PNG battle

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 8/06/2016

The All Whites will battle hosts Papua New Guinea in the Oceania Nations Cup final on Saturday for a spot in next year's Confederations Cup.

New Zealand were less than convincing in their 1-0 semi-final win over New Caledonia on Wednesday, while Papua New Guinea hung on to beat the Solomon Islands 2-1 in the late match at Sir John Guise Stadium in Port Moresby.

New Zealand, beaten by the same opposition in the Nations Cup semi-finals four years ago, offered little in a stop-start scoreless first half and were fortunate to score early in the second.

Skipper Chris Wood, returning after injuring his shoulder in New Zealand's 5-0 win over Vanuatu last week, recorded his fourth goal of the tournament four minutes into the second spell.

His shot should have been a regulation save for Jelen Ixoee but it slipped through the hands of the New Caledonian keeper into the net.

Despite going a goal up, the All Whites never really took control of the game, New Caledonia's pace out wide creating numerous chances which were squandered by poor crossing.

They dominated possession and peppered the All Whites goal with 23 shots to New Zealand's eight, but couldn't find an equaliser.

All Whites coach Anthony Hudson will be without attacking midfielder Luka Prelevic and defender Themi Tzimopoulos for the final after both players picked up their second yellow cards of the tournament.

Striker Rory Fallon admitted the game hadn't been one of the All Whites' best.

"Once we got our goal, we just tried to keep that lead - we always knew that was going to be our hardest game so we had to put everything into it," he said.

"We could have played better but I'd rather win ugly than play nice football and lose."

Fallon said the All Whites struggled for territory in the first half, pinned back by a strong wind much of the time.

"It was a lot different in the second half because we could get the ball up the pitch and squeeze them a lot higher.

"All that counts is the win and you need to do what you have to."

Papua New Guinea captain David Muta said reaching the final was a special achievement.

"I think it's going to be a really big challenge against New Zealand, but we have to stand strong and walk together," he said.

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