New Zealand beats Solomon Islands 6-1 in World Cup qualifier

World Cup qualifying
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AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) New Zealand closed in on a World Cup qualifying playoff spot against the fifth-place South American team by beating the Solomon Islands 6-1 Friday in the opening match of a two-leg series.

New Zealand captain Chris Wood scored a hat trick ahead of the return leg on Tuesday in Honiara.

The winner of the series will face a South American team for a place at next year’s World Cup in Russia. The current team in fifth place is Argentina.

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Wood, who moved to Premier League club Burnley from Leeds, scored twice in the first half while Kosta Barbarouses made it 3-0.

Ryan Thomas took advantage of some poor defending to give New Zealand a 4-0 lead, and Michael McGlinchey scored from a free kick in the 81st minute. Wood then completed his hat trick in injury time.

Winston Reid, a West Ham defender who is the usual New Zealand captain, was unavailable for the match with a calf injury. Shane Smeltz, Tommy Smith and Marco Rojas were also absent. For the Solomon Islands, New Zealand-based striker Micah Lea’alafa was unavailable because of a visa problem.