New Zealand took New Caledonia apart 7-1 with a ruthless performance in their final group game at the Oceania FIFA World Cup qualifying tournament in Qatar.
Goals by Alex Greive (2), Chris Wood (2), Logan Rogerson (pen), Andre de Jong and Bill Tuiloma punished an outclassed New Caledonia who go home without a win at the tournament.
New Zealand top the group and go into a sudden-death semi-final against Tahiti on Monday (6.30am NZT).
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Head coach Danny Hay rotated his squad for the match, knowing his side had already qualified for the knockout stages regardless of the game’s result.
He rested veteran defender Winston Reid and started record-breaking goalscorer Wood on the bench.
Tommy Smith, the third member of that 30-something trio to play at the 2010 World Cup finals, led the team onto the pitch with the captain’s armband.
Without Wood as a target, New Zealand looked to create different paths to the New Caledonia goal, patiently building play and probing their opponents’ defence.
After only eight minutes, Greive scored his first goal for New Zealand with a clever back foot flick into the net — a tap-in that was more difficult than it first appeared.
The All Whites concede their first goal of the tournament
In the 12th minute, the All Whites blotted their gamebook for the only time in the game when they conceded for the first time in the tournament.
They allowed New Caledonia to pump a set piece ball into the area, failed to properly clear it and suffered when Jean-Philippe Saiko was unchallenged to head over a flat-footed Jamie Searle in the New Zealand goal.
In the end-of-game stats, it proved to be New Caledonia’s only goal attempt of the match.
The game stayed at 1-1 for more than half an hour before Greive again showed why he’s taken his goalscoring prowess from the Northern League to a professional career in the past year.
The former Birkenhead United striker darted through the New Caledonian defenders, challenging them to either bring him down or let him shoot. Down he went, and Logan Rogerson calmly sent the ‘keeper the wrong way from the resulting penalty.
Greive then capped an outstanding half with his second international goal as the first half went into added time.
Put through on goal by a ball clipped over the New Caledonian backline, Greive bore down on the ‘keeper and passed it into the net.
Second half: Hay shows no mercy with high calibre subs
In the second half, coach Hay showed his intent to show no mercy and to give his recent arrivals the equivalent of a training run.
To bring on Wood, Tuiloma, Joe Bell, de Jong and Liberato Cacace as second half substitutes was a brazen demonstration of the depth of this New Zealand squad.
After 75 minutes, de Jong scored from a Wood rebound to extend the lead to 4-1.
In the 81st minute, Tuiloma steered a corner goalward and the referee (and replays) confirmed it had crossed the line.
Wood, sensing there were more goals to be had, added goals number 31 and 32 to his remarkable international tally.
The first was a trademark one-on-one in the 83rd minute, stroking the ball wide of the ‘keeper.
The second, with a minute of normal time left, was a simple header from a delightful de Jong cross, made with the outside of his boot.
New Caledonia were no match for New Zealand but as the football maxim says, you can only beat what’s in front of you.
The All Whites did that and have reached the knockout stage with no apparent injuries or suspensions, and with a carefully rotated squad to ensure Hay can pick his best starting line-ups in the remaining games.
Greive’s performance justified his recent elevation to the national side and added to the growing number of young strikers looking to take over when Wood finally ends his career.
Main photo: Greive lines up his second goal as the first half draws to an end.
New Zealand had 13 goal attempts of which 11 were on target, compared to New Caledonia’s only attempt which produced their goal.
The All Whites won the corner count 6-2 and enjoyed 57% of the game’s possession.
Those who routinely stereotype Oceania teams as over-physical should consider the foul count in which New Zealand were guilty of 13 fouls, compared to their opponents’ 10.
23 Jamie SEARLE (GK), 3 Francis DE VRIES, 5 Tommy SMITH (c), 11 Joe CHAMPNESS, 12 Callum McCOWATT, 15 Alex GREIVE, 16 Nikko BOXALL, 17 Logan ROGERSON, 18 Cam HOWIESON, 19 Matt GARBETT, 21 Tim PAYNE. Subs: 1 Matthew GOULD (GK), 20 Stefan MARINOVIC (GK), 6 Bill TUILOMA, 8 Joe BELL, 9 Chris WOOD, 10 Marko STAMENIC, 13 Liberato CACACE, 14 Andre DE JONG, 22 Niko KIRWAN. Coach: Danny HAY.
23 Jean-Gilles HNAMUKO (GK), 3 Joël WAKANUMUNE (c), 4 Pierre KAUMA, 6 Cédrick SANSOT, 7 Joris KENON, 9 Jean-Philippe SAIKO, 10 Richard SELE, 13 Vincent VAKIE, 16 Germain HAEWEGENE, 19 Joseph ATHALE, 22 Jean-Brice WADRIAKO. Subs: 1 Rocky NYIKEINE (GK) 20 Mickael ULILE (GK), 2 Jordan WETRIA, 5 Pierre BAKO, 8 William ROKUAD, 11 Christopher WACALIE, 12 Lues WAYA, 14 Louis PIAA, 15 Rodrigue WALONE, 17 Cédric DECOIRE, 18 Bertrand KAI, 21 Roberto NEOERE. Coach: Dominque WACALIE.
Final standings in Group B:
What happens next?
The semi-finals on Monday March 28 (NZT) are:
3am: Solomon Islands v Papua New Guinea
6.30am: New Zealand v Tahiti
Ricki Herbert’s match analysis
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