NZ progress into Olympic football tournament

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    New Zealand edged past Fiji 1-0 on Sunday to reach their second successive Olympic Games men’s football tournament.

    A Greg Draper penalty after 18 minutes settled the Oceania zone final played in Taupo where Fiji twice hit the woodwork.

    In the semi-finals, the Kiwis had beaten Vanuatu 3-2 while Fiji enjoyed a 3-0 win against Papua New Guinea.

    In other qualifying action, Syria narrowly escaped defeat against Oman on Sunday during the opening game of their three-team tournament, scoring an equaliser in injury time to draw 1-1.

    Syria’s Ahmad Aldouni saved Syria from an embarrassing defeat with a looping header in the 95th minute after the Gulf Sultanate had taken a shock lead.

    Oman’s captain Al Hadhri Hussain Ali Farah scored in the 44th minute of play, and the Sultanate kept up the pressure throughout the second half, although were unable to capitalise on a number of golden opportunities to score.

    The equaliser came as a relief to Syria, coached by Rui Almeida, ahead of a crucial game with Uzbekistan on Tuesday at the My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi.

    They went a man down after Hussein Aljwayed was shown a red card but Oman were unable to make the most of the opportunity presented to them.

    Syria went into the match as favourites, with Oman’s presence in the Olympic playoffs described as “a miracle” by head coach Paul Le Guen at the pre-match press conference.

    Oman’s qualification to the playoffs came after FIFA awarded them a 3-0 victory in their fixture with Qatar.

    The November 27 match originally ended in a 1-1 draw but Qatar were found guilty of fielding an ineligible player.

    © AFP 2017