Fiji beat Vanuatu 4-3 in penalty shootout and qualify for Rio

Carrying the weight of a nation on his young shoulders, Fiji’s men’s soccer captain, Jale Dreola stepped up, aimed and then fired the ball into the nets to beat Vanuatu 4-3 in a penalty shootout to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

That was the tale of the tape at the new Sir Hubert Murray stadium tonight as tears were shed on one side of the field and singing and dancing broke at the other side. The win tonight also won Fiji gold at the Pacific Games.

In normal time, Vanuatu looked the side to score first having a mountain of opportunities in both the first and second half.

Vanuatu’s Bill Nicholls and captain Brian Kaltack came nail bitingly close to scoring but had no luck finding the back of the net as their shots sailed wide or above the bar.

Fiji’s goalkeeper Tevita Koroi also was largely responsible for keeping the ball out as he leapt and stretched out to make numerous saves.

Fiji on the other hand had nearly just as many opportunities to score, beating the Vanuatu backline a few times but couldn’t finish off.

After over 90 minutes of play, full time was called and 15 minutes each half of extra time commenced.

The big play came in the second half of extra time when Fiji’s striker Napalioni Qasevakatani was left one on one with Vanuatu’s goal keeper in Selonie Iaruel.

Qasevakatani powered the ball to the right but Iaruel anticipated this and leapt out to make the save. A few minutes later, full time was called.

In the penalty shootout, Vanuatu went first and took a 1-0 lead. Fiji equalised straight after. The next two penalty kicks from both sides saw no change to the score.

Up next, Vanuatu’s Tony Kaltack scored to take a 2-1 lead. But Fiji’s Kolinio Sivoki levelled the scores.

Both sides scored goals again to leave the score at 3-3. Then came Vanuatu’s Chanel Obed whose kick sailed wide leaving Fiji with a chance to break the deadlock.

The Fiji captain walked up, to the penalty box cool, calm and collected and slotted the ball past Iaruel to seal the win.

Troy Taule