In his fourth World Cup briefing for Friends of Football, All Whites legend Ricki Herbert analyses New Zealand’s 7-1 win against New Caledonia.
By Ricki Herbert
One day, head coach Danny Hay may well look back and be thankful for the availability obstacles he faced ahead of the World Cup qualifiers in Qatar.
Not having all his first-choice players available for the opening two games, Hay was forced to bring in young and inexperienced candidates to help get the All Whites through the group games, at least.
We’ll probably never know whether Alex Greive would have made the squad if Hay had been able to use Chris Wood and others right from the start.
But we should be glad Greive (22) got his chance because he took full opportunity to show what he’s capable of, scoring twice and giving New Caledonian defenders a headache for the 71 minutes he was on the Qatar SC Stadium pitch.
He made well-timed runs, was always available to receive the pass and was clever in the way he put his body between ball and defender — that earned his side a penalty.
It’s encouraging to know a player who emerged as the leading goalscorer in last year’s Northern League has so quickly made the transition to the professional game (with Scottish Premiership club St Mirren) and now looks quite at home in an All Whites shirt.
The All Whites have negotiated the pool games with no slip-ups and for Monday’s semi-final, Hay will be able to select his best starting XI for the first time in the tournament.
He may even be tempted to manage his players’ game times to ensure the team is at full pitch for the final, assuming Tahiti don’t produce an upset.
‘Tommy Semmy is another to show what he can do’
I’ve been tipping Papua New Guinea to reach the final since the tournament opener when they looked organised and showed enthusiasm.
I’m personally pleased for PNG’s Tommy Semmy whose two goals at the tournament have helped them through to the knockout stages.
In 2015, I coached the PNG U-23 side at the Pacific Games.
Semmy was part of that bronze medal-winning team and we stayed in touch, with Semmy later coming to join Hamilton Wanderers where I’m the club’s Technical Director.
Since then, he’s shown his goalscoring ability in the Northern League and National League and gone in search of a professional career in Australia. He deserves the success and recognition he’s getting at the World Cup qualifiers.
Tournaments always flush out talent — Alex Greive and Tommy Semmy are perfect examples.
Read Ricki Herbert’s previous World Cup briefings
Click below to read Herbert’s match analyses from the World Cup qualifiers