New Zealand qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics women’s soccer competition without even playing the entirety of qualifying.
Papua New Guinea — the Football Ferns’ opponents for the berth to the Rio Games — withdrew from the second leg of the Oceania Olympic playoff after the team’s players did not receive the required visas to enter New Zealand for the return match on Tuesday. New Zealand won leg one of the playoff, 7-1 in Papua New Guinea.
New Zealand is the seventh team to qualify for Rio 2016, joining hosts Brazil and Colombia from South America, France and Germany from Europe, and South Africa and Zimbabwe from Africa. It is the third straight time the Football Ferns have made it to the Olympics.
The final five spots at this summer’s Olympics will be filled by two CONCACAF teams, two teams from Asia and the winner of a four-team playoff in March between Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands to determine the final European bid.
New Zealand will still play a match against an invitational XI which quickly organized so that fans still have a match to watch. Admission is free.
“While we’re obviously delighted the Football Ferns will be making the trip to Rio, we’re disappointed tonight’s game will not be going ahead and we won’t get the chance to secure our place on the field in front of our fans,” New Zealand Football CEO Andy Martin said.
New Zealand’s qualification for major tournaments is typically a walk in the park. The Football Ferns qualified for the 2015 World Cup by winning three games by a combined 29-0.
The Football Ferns travel to Portugal in March for a scaled-down Algarve Cup, where they will play Brazil, Russia and Portugal.
Papua New Guinea is the host of this year’s U-20 Women’s World Cup.
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