All Whites coach Danny Hay hopes to secure two more matches for his side in November’s international window so the players can build on their two wins in Bahrain.
The November friendlies would help prepare the All Whites for the Oceania World Cup qualifying tournament scheduled for January in the Middle East, with the winner then playing a team from the Americas for a spot at the FIFA World Cup finals.
Speaking after his side’s latest win, a 1-0 victory against Bahrain, Hay told TV 1 News: “We’re starting to form a strong identity around what this team is about and now it’s about looking to November and continue to build on the progress that we’ve made.
“I think we’ve got a far more creative, exciting type of player starting to emerge in the game, they’re young and enthusiastic and for me, it’s just giving them the courage to go and express themselves.
“Historically we always had a negative-defensive approach, but what we’re starting to see from this group is that they are far more positive and trying to win games.
“I’ve always had huge belief in this group, I have firm belief in the quality and character of these players and believe that we can take on any side.
“If we get through Oceania, the way we’re starting to progress, I don’t think any team in that inter-continental play-off will want to play us.”
The win against Bahrain was achieved through an 88th-minute header from substitute Niko Kirwan, pictured celebrating.
- Head coach Danny Hay made five changes to the side that beat Curaçao 2-1 earlier in the week. Coming into the team were Michael Woud, Michael Boxall, Kalvin Kalua , Elijah Just and Joey Champness.
- The match provided another All Whites debutant in Joey Champness (24) who marauded the right flank, with two shots on target and earning his side several free kicks.
- The win gave New Zealand (ranked 121st in the world by FIFA) another win over higher-ranked opposition, with Bahrain rated 91st.
- Players wore a black armband to recognise the recent death of former All White Ian Ormond (72). Click here to read our obituary of Ian Ormond >>>>
Head coach Danny Hay: “The analysis that we’d done around Bahrain showed that when they defend, they really do narrow up, so the game plan was to try to drag them to one side then quickly expose them down the other.”
Goalscorer Niko Kirwan: “I was already so happy to get called up and really keen to show Danny and the staff what I’m capable of. When the ball went in I was just so happy. It meant so much – to score for your country is unreal.”
Former All White and Sky Sports pundit Fred de Jong: “They’ve (New Zealand) have been the side with the more initiative throughout the game. It’s been a hugely successful tour in really difficult conditions. There’ll be a lot of players here who have done themselves no harm in future call-ups for the All Whites.”
NZME football writer Michael Burgess: “They (Bahrain) were outpointed by an All Whites team who were better in possession, stronger in defence and somehow – despite the oppressive conditions – showed more endurance.”
All Whites (4-3-3): Michael Woud, Liberato Cacace, Kelvin Kalua, Michael Boxall, Nando Pijnaka, Joe Bell, Elijah Just, Marko Stamenic, Callum McCowatt, Joe Campness, Chris Wood.