With the pool games completed, New Zealand’s World Cup mission has become quite simple.
Three games lie ahead. Win all three and the All Whites of 2022 will join those of 1982 and 2010 as sides to reach football’s biggest show.
Currently ranked 111th in the FIFA world rankings, New Zealand need to beat:
- Tahiti (ranked 159) in Monday’s semi-final at the Oceania FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
- Whoever they would play in next Friday’s final — either Solomon Islands (142) or Papua New Guinea (165).
- And then whichever nation finishes fourth in the CONCACAF series in a one-off inter-confederation play-off in June.
There are four remaining contenders for that fourth spot. In order of likelihood, they are Panama (63), Costa Rica (42), Mexico (12) and the United States (13).
Meanwhile, head coach Danny Hay is presenting a calm but focussed approach in his media appearances.
After the 7-1 win against New Caledonia, a low-key Hay said:
“I thought the way we started the game was really good. Some of the passages of play where we were patient in moving the ball were excellent.
“We just base ourselves on the performance. We aren’t worried about the scorelines at the moment. Obviously, we want to win, that’s a given, but it’s more around the standards we set ourselves and the type of performance we put out there.”
Canada has all but ensured its qualification for the World Cup finals in Qatar, despite losing its 11-match unbeaten run in the CONCACAF qualifying series with Friday’s 1-0 loss to Costa Rica.
Canada benefitted from other results — Panama surprised with a home draw to Honduras and a scoreless draw between Mexico and the United States kept both at bay.
Only a series of mathematically-improbable results could deny Canada’s first finals appearance in 36 years.
But coach John Herdman — who was working for NZ Football and playing Lotto NRFL football for Hibiscus Coast little more than 10 years ago — will put his celebrations on hold.
Jamaica 1-1 El Salvador
Panama 1-1 Honduras
Mexico 0-0 United States
Costa Rica 1-0 Canada
Meanwhile, the results have reinforced the likelihood that fourth place in the CONCACAF series will go to Costa Rica or Panama — and one of those will meet the winner of the Oceania series in the inter-confederation play-off in June.
Games on Monday (NZT) will help further to sort them out.
9.05am: Canada v Jamaica
10.05am: El Salvador v Costa Rica
12.00pm: United States v Panama
12.05pm: Honduras v Mexico