Iron midfielder Clayton Lewis has added to the two caps he earned for New Zealand Under-23s against Australia Under-23s by aiding the side to the semi-final of the OFC Men’s Olympic Qualifier tournament.
The side defeated Samoa 6-1 in the opening match of a three-game league format with Lewis playing the full encounter in the emphatic victory.
Three days later, the All Whites backed up that win with an even more convincing display against American Samoa. Opening the scoring on four minutes, Lewis would get a brace in the 12-0 demolition. It was already 7-0 when he was withdrawn on the 57th minute. As a result of that victory, New Zealand's Under-23s had already qualified for the semi-finals of the tournament.
The third and final group stage match, against the Solomon Islands, finished 4-2 to the All Whites, but they had to come from behind after conceding in the first minute of the tie. Lewis grabbed the equaliser in the 37th minute to add to his tally for the side before the team pushed onto victory to finish top of the group with maximum points, scoring 22 goals and conceding just three.
Four teams will now vye for two final places on offer as the OFC Men’s Olympic Qualifier tournament reaches its business end with Wednesday’s semi-final double-header at Lautoka’s Churchill Park.
New Zealand and hosts Fiji will kick off the day’s proceedings before Melanesian rivals Vanuatu and Solomon Islands clash straight after.
Group A winners New Zealand will need to adjust quickly to the conditions in Lautoka after spending the past fortnight in Suva while the hosts, who finished runners up in Group B, will be hoping to make the most of their familiarity with Churchill Park following their three previous outings there.