The tournament is the second stage of the Oceania qualifying process for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ and the winner will also qualify for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, to be held in Brazil during June 2013. The national teams of Fiji, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tahiti and Vanuatu are all set to take part and will compete in a tournament based on a league system with semi-finals and a final.
The Solomon Islands Football Federation (SIFF) was awarded hosting rights for the event – the most high-profile on the OFC calendar - after the member associations involved were invited in February to submit hosting bids to OFC. Two bids were received – from SIFF and the Fédération Calédonienne de Football (FCF) – and a decision was made via circular by the OFC Executive Committee members and observers.
Given that the Nations Cup is OFC’s flagship event and is sure to generate worldwide interest and media coverage, many important factors - such as stadium facilities, infrastructure and accommodation - had to be taken into consideration.
SIFF put forward a strong bid to stage all matches at Lawson Tama Stadium, a 25,000-capacity facility with a FIFA-standard playing surface in the heart of Honiara. The stadium is set up well for television and media coverage while the bid document also outlined quality accommodation and training venues. All the facilities and accommodation are based within a convenient distance for players, spectators and officials alike.
“SIFF have submitted a very well-prepared bid and are in a strong position to successfully host what is our most significant tournament,” OFC General Secretary Tai Nicholas says.
“There will be a lot of interest in these matches from all corners of the globe so it is imperative that the tournament is run smoothly and that coverage of the action can be delivered in a professional and timely fashion. The Solomon Islands is a football-mad nation so the games are sure to be very well attended and the whole country is likely to get behind the tournament in a big way.”
The OFC Nations Cup was originally scheduled to be held in Fiji but the 2012 OFC Events Calendar went under review at the end of last year during which a number of factors were considered for all tournaments, including participation, logistics, finance and other matters.
The previous edition of the Nations Cup was held four years ago under a different format and featured New Zealand, New Caledonia, Fiji and Vanuatu playing off in a home-and-away series between October 2007 and November 2008. There were no semi-finals or final as the All Whites emerged triumphant and thus went on to take part in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa.
They also qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ – their second ever appearance at the finals and first since 1982 – by beating fifth-placed Asian team Bahrain 1-0 in a two-legged play-off.
New Zealand has won four of the eight Nations Cup events held so far while the other four were won by previous OFC member Australia, now part of the Asian Football Confederation. The tournament was first held in 1973 and has never taken place in Solomon Islands. The new hosts’ highest ever placing was a runners-up spot in 2004.
The current format of World Cup qualifying will see the four highest-placed teams from the Nations Cup go on to contest stage three – a round-robin, home-and-away play-off series. The matches are foreseen to take place between 7 September 2012 and 26 March 2013 in FIFA windows.
The winner of the third stage will advance to an inter-continental home-and-away play-off against the fourth-placed team from CONCACAF – the confederation of North America, Central American and the Caribbean - for a place at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
The match schedule and playing squads for the 2012 OFC Nations Cup will be released in due course.