OFC 1990 Qualification


Australian pair Oscar Crino and Paul Trimboli screenshot against Fiji

The Oceania confederation only had three entries for the Italia ’90 qualification, though in addition to Fiji, Australia and New Zealand, there were also non-OFC members Israel (just like in the qualification for Mexico ’86) and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan).

This meant that five nations would compete for a place in the intercontinental play-offs between OFC and CONMEBOL (its Group 2 winners), where the victorious team ultimately would qualify for the 1990 World Cup. 

The OFC qualification had a first and a second round. The first saw two-legged affairs where both winners would go on through to the second round along with Israel, who had received a first round bye. The three teams in round two would play each other on a home and away basis, according to round-robin principles. 

First phase

(Twitter thread for the four first round matches combined)

1st leg

Madigi (66′)



Prince Charles Park (Nadi)

The plucky Fiji team executed a sensational win against the region’s big nation. Perhaps had Australia not arrived in the best of shape, and perhaps had they even under-estimated the quality of the opposition. The only goal of the game came midway through the second half through substitute Madigi. Fiji had stuck to a very physical approach which had had some opposing players intimidated.

2nd leg

Yankos (9′, 69′ pen.)
Spink (25′)
Arnold (84′)
Trimboli (87′)


Delai (90′)

Macquarie Fields (Speers Point)

Australia turned the tie around with relative ease, as they completed a 5-1 rout to which captain Charlie Yankos had set them on their way with an early 30 yard wonder strike. Fiji’s often physical approach didn’t quite come off this time around, and they even ashamed themselves a minute from time in a brawl which saw their substitute Watisoni sent off, and which left Yankos with a bloody nose. Expected progress in the end for the Socceroos. 

1st leg

Chinese Taipei


New Zealand
Wright (36′)
McClennan (45′)
Barkley (57′)
Halligan (76′)

Newtown Park (Wellington)

In Chinese Taipei’s ‘home game’, they had managed to tame the opposition, which had taken some time to gel in the first match back for returning supremo Adshead. Victory by such a handsome margin turned the second leg into a comfortable affair for the All Whites.

2nd leg

New Zealand
Wright (15′)
McClennan (25′, 40′, 49′)


Chinese Taipei
Lund (55′ o.g.)

Western Springs (Auckland)

A Darren McClennan hat-trick almost stole the headlines from Wynton Rufer’s return to national team action. New Zealand proceeded safely through to the group stage phase with an 8-1 aggregate win. 

Second phase (group stage)

Match 1

Rosenthal (7′)


New Zealand

Ramat Gan National Stadium (Tel Aviv)

Israel get their World Cup qualification campaign off to winning ways thanks to an early strike from Belgium based forward Rosenthal. italia1990.com do not possess much in terms of footage nor information about this game, and the scant video material available shows the Israeli hosts put some pressure on their visitors. Other than Rosenthal’s goal, there’s also a close range Ohana header which is superbly beaten away by New Zealand ‘keeper Gosling. 

Match 2

Crino (16′)
Arnold (42′, 55′)
Yankos (79′ pen.)


New Zealand
Dunford (70′)

Sydney Football Stadium (Sydney)

After a slow start, Australia move in front on the quarter of an hour, but despite being easily the better side, they failed to add to their tally until just before the break, when the visitors had lost their fine box to box midfielder Halligan to injury. Crino and Petersen controlled the centre of the park, and Arnold was such a handful up top. The Australian striker should’ve bagged more than the brace which he got. Defender Dunford headed a consolation, only for Yankos to strike home a penalty after Ollerenshaw had rounded Gosling only to be tripped. Emphatic win, but New Zealand were woeful.

Match 3

Ohana (67′ pen.)


Yankos (73′)

Ramat Gan National Stadium (Tel Aviv)

Israel change their formation around from their opening fixture against New Zealand, reinforcing their defence in order to counter the attacking threat of returning Australia strikers Farina and Krnčević. Iluz comes into the team at forward Driks’ expense. As a result, they relinquish the initiative, and see the visitors shade the opening 45 minutes, which is a tense, physical battle in a packed stadium. There’s preciously few openings either way, and it takes a penalty midway through the second half, which is largely dominated by the hosts, to open the scoring (Ohana). A long range free-kick expertly drilled home by skipper Yankos restores parity, and despite a late red-card offence by visiting defender Šavor, the hosts can not capitalize. 

Match 4

New Zealand
Dunford (19′)
Wright (81′)



Mount Smart Stadium (Auckland)

In the return leg between the two leading Oceania nations, hosts New Zealand have made no less than five changes to their starting eleven in comparison to the team which had taken to the field for their inept Sydney defeat. The Australians, meanwhile, were again without the services of their Belgium based forward pair, and so both Spink and Ollerenshaw had been brought back into their starting eleven. In severe gales, the visitors predominantly looked flat against an inspired host team, which had some big performers right through their core, and while Lund won plenty of central defensive headers, Ironside added steel to their midfield in a lung-bursting performance. Dunford collected his second goal of the series, and Australia were made to look a million miles away from the team which had won so comfortably at home. Wright capped it off with a terrific second late on when he bent one into the top right corner. 

Match 5

New Zealand
Wright (20′)
Dunford (36′)



Rosenthal (17′)
Klinger (38′)

Mount Smart Stadium (Auckland)

Both managers had been quoted in wishing victory by a margin of three goals: New Zealand to still be in with a chance to win the group; Israel to be able to travel to Australia next week and still finish top even if they should lose by a single goal. In a see-saw first half, they shared four goals, and both teams had been in front. Difficult conditions (wind, pitch) made sure that quality was hard to find, but plenty of commitment from both sets of players ensured that the game had plenty of nerve. De Jong and Rosenthal were the teams’ respective solitary forwards. Just the one change for both sides since their previous outings. After the break, New Zealand seemed to relish being assisted by the wind, but despite fine efforts from Dunford and de Jong, they couldn’t find that third goal. In the final quarter of an hour, Israel, with substitute Ohana on, had a huge number of counters which they just couldn’t finish. Their indecision ultimately cost them a point. They would now need a result in Sydney next Sunday. 

Match 6

Trimboli (88′)



Ohana (40′)

Sydney Football Stadium (Sydney)

There’s naturally a superb atmosphere inside a packed stadium for this crucial clash. The home side, as expected in their 3-4-3 formation, apply most of the first half pressure, as they’re fielding all of their three European based forwards, with Arnold in an attacking midfield role. Israel, as it had been expected, were sitting deep and defending heroically, but they’d let Rosenthal have Ohana for company this time around, so they’d switched to 4-4-2. After fending off everything that the hosts had thrown at them, they took full advantage of a mix-up at the back for the hosts five minutes from the break, as Ohana seized on the ball to round Olver and score. Massive, massive goal. The Israelis had been denied a penalty, Farina had also gone to ground inside the area, but the referee was so far doing a fine job. In the second half, Australia find little rhythm in their attacks; they generally hoist balls into the area. Krnčević is neutralised by Alon, and they muster preciously few efforts on goal. Israel contain them with relative ease until substitute Trimboli’s late leveller. By then, it is too little, too late, and with the referee failing to add more than 38 seconds of injury time despite the obvious Israeli time-wasting, it is all over. 

Final Table

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Intercontinental play-offs

Group winners Israel would face CONMEBOL Group 2 winners Colombia in the two-legged play-offs. Read more…

First leg
15.10.1989: Estadio Metropolitano (Barranquilla)
Colombia 1-0 Israel
Israel came to defend their way to a fine scoreline ahead of the second leg at home, and though they were being dominated by the hosts throughout, they did not allow the hosts many goalscoring opportunities. The goal came courtesy of half-time substitute Usuriaga, set up by ‘Man of the Match’ Fajardo. Alon again had a terrific game at centre-half, and nullified the threat from Iguarán.

Second leg
30.10.1989: Ramat Gan International Stadium (Tel Aviv)
Israel 0-0 Colombia
The hosts gave it a right go, but just could not find the goal which would’ve given them extra time. They had created various opportunities, and there could’ve been few objections had they managed to find the back of the net. Despite twice being a match for the Colombians, Israel would remain home-sitters during next year’s event in Italy. 


With the expected outcome after the total of four preliminary stage ties, Australia, Israel and New Zealand were to reacquaint in the group stage of the qualification. The trio had, along with Chinese Taipei, locked horns in the previous year’s Olympic Games qualification, and with neither having a designated ‘Olympic select’, players who had featured in those qualifiers were generally picked again for the World Cup qualification. Australia had obviously made it through to participate in the 1988 games in Seoul, South Korea, and could they replicate that triumph now, with an even greater prize at stake? 

The group stage started with two home wins, and on both occasions, it was New Zealand who suffered, as they had been the travelling party. Israel had defeated them by just an early Ronny Rosenthal goal, and then the Kiwis went down heavily against their arch-rivals from across the Tasman Sea. With just three teams and a total of four matches for each participant, it appeared that New Zealand’s chances to go on and qualify for the next stage were already gone. 

Nir Alon/Charlie Yankos in Tel Aviv

Australia looked the biggest early contender for the coveted first spot, as they held the Israelis to a 1-1 away draw in a very hard-fought game in Tel Aviv. Both of the group’s ‘big guns’ could draw on attacking expertise from Europe (New Zealand could, too, although their asset Wynton Rufer didn’t feature in their final three matches), and the quality of forwards on display was quite impressive. However, it took ‘main man’ and defender Charlie Yankos to level the scores with a sublime late free-kick, after Eli Ohana had given the Israelis the lead earlier in the half from the penalty spot. 

With the group stage at its halfway point, New Zealand would go on and have their two home ties in succession. They defeated their neighbours in an impressively gritty performance from a team propping up the table, and with the group standings so tight, they even hauled themselves back in contention for a first berth finish. That was if they could only have replicated that victory against Israel, although they’d have needed to win by at least three goals to stand a chance of overtaking both. Ultimately, Israel had come closest to snatching a late winner in the 2-2 draw in the blustery Auckland conditions. This saw to that just the two favourites remained in battle for the top spot. 

New Zealand’s Malcolm Dunford

The final game was the decider, and with Australia having home advantage, most people probably saw them as the more likely candidate to advance through to the intercontinental play-off stage. However, despite recruiting even further firing power based on the European continent, they could not break down a stubborn Israeli defence until it was too late. By that time the visitors had held the lead for more than 45 minutes, and in a game with plenty of nerve, but with not so much goalmouth action, it finished with a share of the spoils. Israel had progressed through, and would have to wait around five months to see whom they would come up against from the CONMEBOL section’s group 2. 

There were three home wins and three draws across the six fixtures. Both Australia and Israel, remarkably, failed to win either of their final three matches, but still finished top two. New Zealand took it to their final qualifier, but were ultimately just short of having what was required to advance. Israel remained the only unbeaten team in the pool. 

Post intercontinental play-offs

Learning over the course of the summer that their opponents for the two-legged intercontinental play-offs were going to be Colombia, Israel were perhaps not feeling entirely confident of progressing through to their first World Cup for 20 years. However, they defended doggedly in Barranquilla on the Colombian Pacific coast during the first leg, and only succumbed to a goal by substitute Usuriaga with less than 20 minutes left for play. 

For the home leg, the Israelis were without star striker Ohana, who was carrying a knock. This left a whole lot of responsibility on the other ace forward, Rosenthal’s, shoulders. He did what he could and at times terrified the South Americans. That elusive goal eluded them, though, and Israel ultimately bowed out with a 1-0 aggregate deficit. They had absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, as they had given Colombia a mighty good scare. 

This left the Oceania confederation without a World Cup representative again. 


(including the intercontinental play-offs)

Total number of matches: 12
Total number of players used: 90
Total number of players including unused substitutes: 96 (Missing data: A total of 32 unused substitutes over the course of the 12 matches)
Ever-presents (540 mins): 12
Leading goalscorer: Yankos (Aus), McClennan, Wright (NZ), all 4
Yellow/red cards: 25/2

Goalscorers (32)

4 goals
Charlie Yankos (Aus), Darren McClennan, Billy Wright (NZ)

3 goals
Graham Arnold (Aus), Malcolm Dunford (NZ)

2 goals
Paul Trimboli (Aus), Eli Ohana, Ronny Rosenthal (Isr)

1 goal
Oscar Crino, Warren Spink (Aus), Noel Barkley, Danny Halligan (NZ), Nir Klinger (Isr), Lote Delai, Ravuama Madigi (Fij)

own goal: 1

Top 10 ratings list

1 Nir Alon (Isr) 7,34 (5)
2 Malcolm Dunford (NZ) 7,13 (3)
3 Ronny Rosenthal (Isr) 7,06 (5)
4 Yehuda Amar (Isr) 7,02 (5)
5 Charlie Yankos (Aus) 6,97 (4)
6 Bonni Ginzburg and Avi Cohen II (both Isr) 6,94 (5)
8 Mike Petersen (Aus) 6,92 (4)
9 Nir Klinger (Isr) 6,90 (5)
10 Oscar Crino (Aus) 6,87 (4) 

Stand-out individual performances
1 Graham Arnold (Aus) 7,8 v New Zealand (h)
2 Charlie Yankos (Aus) 7,7 v Israel (a)
3 Nir Alon (Isr) 7,6 v Australia (a), Robert Ironside (NZ) v Australia (h), Oscar Crino (Aus) v New Zealand (h), Ronny Rosenthal (Isr) v Colombia (h)