New Zealand are set to appear in their third straight women’s Olympic football tournament after taking a commanding 7-1 lead over Papua New Guinea in their Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament first leg tie.
As the top ranked team from Oceania in the FIFA Women's World Rankings, New Zealand had been automatically granted a place in the second phase of the competition.
As a result of their gold medal win at the 2015 Pacific Games, Papua New Guinea had earned the right to go head-to-head with the Kiwis to decide the sole team to represent the region at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
However, they were always expected to struggle in the clash against a side who participated at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Despite Papua New Guinea resisting their opponents in the opening 20 minutes of the tie on their home soil in Lae, the gulf is class began to tell when Amber Hearn, New Zealand’s record goalscorer, found the net to break the deadlock.
Her strike opened the floodgates, as Rebekah Stott and Annalie Longo found the net in quick succession to take the score to 3-0 after 27 minutes.
Due to the stifling heat water breaks were taken in both halves of the game, but New Zealand proved undeterred by the conditions as Aimee Phillips scored her first international goal to take the score to 4-0 at half-time.
Papua New Guinea proved unable to stem New Zealand’s scoring in the second half, with Abby Erceg, Longo and Hearn all finding the net.
The home fans were able to celebrate a consolation strike from Meagen Gunemba, the 2014 OFC Under-20 Women's Championship Golden Ball winner, but they eventually ended the tie with a 7-1 defeat.
It leaves New Zealand set to book their place at the Olympics ahead of the second leg in Auckland, which is scheduled to take place on January 26.
They will join Colombia, France, Germany and South Africa in Rio, along with hosts Brazil and Olympic debutantes Zimbabwe.
Qualification will be a boost for New Zealand after the country's men's team were thrown out of Olympic qualification for fielding an ineligible player.