New Zealand thrashed Samoa to open the tournament in style ©OFC

Favourites New Zealand began their campaign to secure a spot in the Olympic football tournament at Tokyo 2020 with a 6-1 thrashing of Samoa at the Oceania qualifier in Fiji.

Ben Waine scored a hat-trick for Pacific Games champions New Zealand in a dominant Group A display at Suva’s ANZ Stadium.

Logan Rogerson, Myer Bevan and substitute Ollie Whyte also got on the scoresheet for New Zealand, who are looking for a fourth-straight Oceania Football Confederation qualifier title.

Michael Tumua had briefly reduced the deficit for Samoa but it mattered little as their opponents cruised to an easy win.

"We don’t expect to have it all our way when we come to the Islands anymore, and you only need to look back through the previous tournaments, the under-17s and under-20s and the last time we came with the young under-23s. 

"Performance-wise all the other nations have improved hugely and the results are a lot closer than they ever have been," said New Zealand coach Des Buckingham.

"Des [coach Desmond Edward] has set Samoa up very well, they were extremely well organised, well coached and they have some good players but we got the result, that was important. 

"But we have a few more gears to get through yet as this tournament progresses."

In the other match in the group, Solomon Islands hammered American Samoa 6-0 to move to the top of the table.

Only the winner of the tournament will qualify for Tokyo 2020.