DES Buckingham admits securing Olympic qualification with New Zealand is still sinking in.

The coach from Cowley, whose career started with ten years at Oxford United, capped off an incredible few months in style.

After beating hosts Fiji 6-1 in the semi-final of the Oceania qualifier, his New Zealand side thrashed the Solomon Islands 5-0 to book their place in Tokyo next year.

It comes hot on the heels of a gold medal at the Pacific Games and reaching the last 16 at the Under 20 World Cup.

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But the latest achievement tops the lot.

“I’d say so, because of the magnitude of the tournament and the way we did it,” he told the Oxford Mail from his home in Auckland.

“I’m still struggling to put it into words.

“It was emotional and I had to catch myself a few times after the full-time whistle, because it’s a huge moment in anybody’s life.”

Buckingham’s record across the New Zealand age groups is impressive.

In 23 games they have lost just once, winning 17 times with a goal difference of +77.

He said: “Historically New Zealand have been a team which was out-passed, out-shot and out-scored at major events.

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“The first time we got to showcase what we had put together was at the Under 20 World Cup.

“We’re now a team that out-possesses, out-shoots and out-scores opponents.

“That was a huge shift and we’re now starting to see the results, which is fantastic.

“We now have nine months to prepare for Tokyo.”