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World Cup path still cloudy for All Whites

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 29/03/2017
New Zealand players sing the national anthem during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between the New Zealand All Whites and Fiji at Westpac Stadium on March 28, 2017 in Wellington, New Zealand © Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images New Zealand players sing the national anthem during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between the New Zealand All Whites and Fiji at Westpac Stadium on March 28, 2017 in Wellington, New Zealand

The pathway to the 2018 World Cup remains muddied for the All Whites following the latest qualifying results in Oceania and South America.

New Zealand are guaranteed a place in the Oceania qualifying final after registering a perfect record against group opponents New Caledonia and Fiji.

However, three teams remain in contention as their next opponents.

Tahiti could have booked the spot for the two-leg final if successful in their home match against Papua New Guinea on Wednesday.

However, a 2-1 defeat has left the group wide open.

Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands will play each other twice in June to determine the group winners. They have both registered three points and could leapfrog Tahiti, who have six.

The Oceania champions will face the fifth-placed team in the powerhouse South American Confederation in a two-leg play-off in November, with the winners qualifying for the World Cup in Russia.

Two-time world champions Argentina, rated No.1 on the present FIFA rankings, have dropped to fifth in the 10-nation dogfight following their 2-0 upset loss to ninth-placed Bolivia.

However, the table remains tight with four of 18 rounds remaining.

Runaway leaders Brazil have already qualified but the next seven teams are separated by just six points.

In order, they are Colombia, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru and Paraguay.

All are ranked inside the world top-45, compared to New Zealand's 112th.

The next round of South American matches isn't until August 31.

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