New Caledonia ended their maiden FIFA appearance at any level with a 1-1 draw against Japan in Kolkata on Saturday. Captain Jekob Jeno scored an 84th minute equaliser to give them their first point in their first World Cup appearance. The result means that Japan finish second in Group E with four points, and will stay in Kolkata for their round of 16 clash on October 17 against England.
Japan coach Yoshiro Moriyama made nine changes to his starting lineup from their previous game and it didn't take long for Japan to take the lead. Keito Nakamura dribbled his way past the New Caledonia defence from the right to score for Japan in the seventh minute for his fourth goal in three matches.
There were some gilt-edged opportunities for New Caledonia to score as well, with striker Theo Bosshard and his substitute Vita Longue missing out on chances either side of half-time. Theo Bosshard in the 31st minute missed from an open net in a one-on-one situation with goalkeeper Togo Umeda who made his U-17 World Cup debut.
New Caledonia soaked up a fair amount of pressure through the rest of the game, with goalkeeper Gaizka Ipeze, playing his first match, keeping things tight after the early goal.
Japan had their fair share of possession in the second-half but New Caledonia started to cause a threat late on. The pressure paid off as Jeno scored the equaliser with seven minutes of regulation time left. He rose inside the box and headed home, sparking off celebrations in the New Caledonian camp. It was the second World Cup goal for New Caledonia who scored their first goal of the tournament through Sidri Wadenges in their 1-7 defeat against France.