In his third World Cup briefing for Friends of Football, All Whites legend Ricki Herbert analyses New Zealand’s 4-0 win against Fiji.
By Ricki Herbert
Head coach Danny Hay must be delighted at the way the group games are panning out at the Oceania FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
His team has controlled the way both games so far have been played, and it’s given him more opportunities to make use of his young players, giving them more experience in the high-pressure environment of a tournament.
Again, as in the tournament opener against Papua New Guinea, New Zealand’s intent was clear.
Move the ball wide in the game’s early stages, forcing the opposition to burn energy.
Don’t take unnecessary risks; wear down their defence; then go in for the kill.
‘I’m delighted for Woodsy — he deserves his record’
In the first half, wing backs Niko Kirwan and Francis De Vries tormented the Fijians with quick and well-timed overlaps, enabling them or wide players like Kosta Barbarouses to get crosses into the penalty area.
With a striker as good as Chris Wood to aim for, it was always likely that New Zealand would score from a high ball into the box.
And so it was.
I was delighted for Woodsy whose international career started as a 17-year-old in the qualifying campaign to reach the 2010 World Cup finals.
For him to take the all-time goalscoring record for New Zealand is no mean achievement and he’s re-set the measure that future generations will use to gauge success. Congratulations to him.
The depth of the New Zealand squad was again demonstrated by the quality of its bench.
Against PNG, Hay was able to bring on Phoenix youngster Ben Waine who scored within 10 minutes of entering the field.
In this second game, it was Elijah Just who came off the bench for the second half, to score his first goal at full international level.
Neither Waine nor Just over-celebrated their goals, though their teammates were quick to congratulate them.
I think this demonstrates the professionalism of the current All Whites, a desire to get the job done as a team.
‘Hay now has the luxury of rotating his squad again’
Hay worked his bench well, giving captain Winston Red and Wood breathers.
Two games won and the All Whites have already booked their place in the semi-finals.
Hay now has the luxury of rotating his squad again, should he want, for Friday’s game against New Caledonia.
Already, it’s looking likely that PNG are also going to progress to the knockout stages.
And a New Zealand v PNG final wouldn’t surprise me at all.
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