The All Whites’ latest international win – a 2-0 victory against The Gambia – has provided supporters with plenty of reasons to feel positive about the national side’s progress.
Here’s five good reasons to be happy:
Reason 1: The winning streak continues
New Zealand is building in confidence with a string of three successive wins in full internationals against non-Oceania opposition.
As NZ Herald writer Michael Burgess tweeted: “The last time the All Whites won three games against non-Oceania opposition, David Lange was PM, Dire Straits were top of the charts and Danny Hay was at primary school.”
For the record, the last hat-trick of such victories was in October 1985 when New Zealand beat Taiwan (twice) and Israel.
Reason 2: There’s more to come in January
New Zealand Football aim to schedule two more international friendlies in the January international window.
That will give coach Hay two more opportunities to identify his strongest starting team ahead of the Oceania World Cup qualifying tournament planned for late March in Qatar.
Reason 3: Chris Wood set to become our greatest goalscorer
Wood’s double against The Gambia gives his 27 goals in full internationals, and moves him within two of Vaughan Coveny’s all-time record.
Earning his 60th international cap, Wood scored his first with a simple back-heel in the 38th minute and his second when he was played in behind the defence by Sarpreet Singh, and rounded the ‘keeper to finish into the empty goal (see main photo).
Late in the game, Wood almost clinched a hat-trick but saw his shot rebound off the post.
Reason 4: The return of Winston Reid and Michael Boxall
Coach Hay has been insistent on the importance of veteran defenders Reid and Boxall to the New Zealand cause, saying their passion for the white shirt and fern is inspirational to less experienced All Whites.
Against The Gambia, Reid made his first appearance for the All Whites in almost two years, since Hay’s first match in charge against Ireland in November 2019.
A free agent since his departure from West Ham United, Reid showed he’s fit again with an hour’s play against The Gambia.
Meanwhile, Boxall (33) did enough as a second-half sub to show he’s still capable of anchoring the defence when needed.
Reason 5: Hay and NZ Football are making the most of their opportunities
Before the appointment of Hay in 2019, NZ Football faced widespread criticism for their failure to organise an international fixture programme designed to develop their national teams.
In the past year, the national body has made all the right steps to find opposition and venues – not easy during the COVID-19 pandemic – for both the All Whites and the Football Ferns.
Hay and his coaching staff have helped by being willing to base themselves offshore to overcome the restrictions forced by the MIQ system.