Red cards, VAR reviews, as the All Whites lose to Tunisia in penalty shootout

posted in: All Whites, National teams, News

New Zealand have lost an incident-filled game against Tunisia after a penalty shootout was needed to settle the result.

The sides were locked 0-0 after normal time in a match that had critical interventions from VAR, two red cards and a missed first-half penalty by New Zealand’s Sarpreet Singh.

All Whites skipper Liberato Cacace will cop a suspension for his sending off in stoppage time, following an altercation with Tunisia’s Elias Achouri.

The game went to penalties because it was the play-off for third place at the four-nation ACUD Cup tournament in Egypt.

Substitutes Ben Waine and Elijah Just missed their penalties, while Tunisia converted their first four spot kicks to win the shootout 4-2.

Main photo: Elijah Just … shares his frustration during the penalty shootout.

New Zealand had the better of the first half at the Cairo International Stadium, creating several good chances, including their missed penalty, while goalkeeper Max Crocombe was not required to make a save.

The All Whites, playing in their new-look PUMA black strip, had the first attempt on goal in the 9th minute when midfielder Sarpreet Singh nudged a free kick for captain Liberato Cacace to lash a stinging shot from 30 metres, forcing Tunisia goalkeeper Bechir Ben Said to parry.

The ball was pounced on by Michael Boxall who passed it to Kosta Barbarouses for a simple tap-in, only for the assistant referee to flag for offside.

New Zealand’s second opportunity came from an inswinging corner by Callum McCowatt in the 15th minute.

It was powerfully met by defender Tommy Smith, and Ben Said plucked it out from beneath the crossbar, diverting the ball to safety.

Singh struck a free kick into the Tunisian side netting midway through the half, a sign the All Whites were intent on taking their shots.

Tunisia had their first real attack in the 27th minute when Ali Abdi fed Hamza Rafia whose shot was sidefooted wide of the New Zealand goal.

In the 28th minute, Tunisia’s Hamza Jlassi trailed a leg when tackling Barbarouses inside the penalty area.

Sarpreet Singh’s penalty is saved by Ben Said.

The Egyptian VAR officials reviewed the incident and invited referee Ahmed El Ghandour to check the sideline screen. After watching the replay, he pointed to the penalty spot.

By the time Singh stepped up to take the spot kick, four minutes had elapsed and goalkeeper Ben Said had received instructions on a tablet, prompting the referee to caution a member of the Tunisian coaching staff.

Singh struck his penalty to the left of Ben Said, who saved the shot.

In the 38th minute, Jlissa and Barbarouses tangled again, and this time the referee awarded a penalty.

Again, VAR intervened and on review, the referee overturned his decision after the replay showed the ball had struck Barbarouses on the arm.

Kosta Barbarouses was denied a penalty on VAR review after the ball was judged to have struck his arm in this incident.

In the second half, Tunisia became more assertive and looked more like a side ranked 41st in the world, compared to the 103rd-ranked New Zealanders.

They had several forays into the New Zealand danger area.

Matt Garbett forced a save from Ben Said on the hour mark; a couple of minutes later, Tunisia’s Dylan Bronn curled a free kick wide of the post.

While play went end to end, the game increasingly looked likely to remain scoreless.

With the prospect of a penalty shootout, Tunisia replaced goalkeeper Ben Said with Aymen Dahmen in stoppage time.

At the final whistle, words were exchanged between Tunisia’s Achouri and All Whites captain Cacace.

Referee El Ghandour intervened, producing yellow and then red cards, and sending off the pair.

Liberato Cacace is shown the red card.

In the shootout, New Zealand’s Ben Waine took the first penalty, clipping it just wide of the post.

Tunisia’s Ben Romdhane put his side 1-0 up.

Barbarouses levelled for New Zealand, stroking the ball into the middle of the goal as the ‘keeper dived to his left.

Tunisia captain Aissa Laidouni made it 2-1.

Substitute Elijah Just was the next New Zealander to miss, striking wide of the upright.

Ali Abdi scored from the spot; 3-1 to Tunisia.

Alex Rufer kept the shootout alive, calmly slotting his spot kick up the middle to make it 3-2.

Tunisian substitute Alaa Ghram finished matters with a successful spot kick, and the tournament’s bronze medal went to Tunisia.

Meanwhile, Croatia beat tournament hosts Egypt 4-2 in the final to collect the gold medals.

Match stats

First half

New Zealand/Tunisia

Shots: 4 / 2
Shots on target: 3 / 0
Possession: 51% / 49%
Passes: 203 / 193
Pass accuracy: 81% / 79%
Fouls: 10 / 7
Yellow cards: 1 / 0
Red cards: 0 / 0
Offsides: 2 /1
Corners: 3 /1

Full game

New Zealand/Tunisia

Shots: 7 / 9
Shots on target: 4 / 0
Possession: 47% / 53%
Passes: 437 / 504
Pass accuracy: 84% / 85%
Fouls: 19 /12
Yellow cards: 1 / 1
Red cards: 1 / 1
Offsides: 3 / 2
Corners: 4 / 4


Game played on Wednesday March 27, 2024

Play-off for third

New Zealand 0
Tunisia 0
*Tunisia won 4-2 on penalties


Egypt 2 (Ramy Rabia 6′, Mohamed Abdelmonem 90+4′)
Croatia 4 (Nikola Vlasic 21′, Bruno Petkovic 57′, Andrej Kramaric 77′, Lovro Majer 86′)


New Zealand

Max Crocombe, Tyler Bindon, Michael Boxall, Liberato Cacace (captain), Tommy Smith, Alex Rufer, Sarpreet Singh (Elijah Just 74′), Marko Stamenic, Matt Garbett (Ben Old 82′), Callum McCowatt (Ben Waine 81′), Kosta Barbarouses

Subs not used: Alex Paulsen, Oli Sail, Dane Ingham, Lukas Kelly-Heald, Clayton Lewis, Max Mata, Nando Pijnaker


Yellow: Bindon (36′)

Red: Cacace (90+3′)


Bechir Ben Said (Aymen Dahmen, 90+2′), Dylan Bronn (Alaa Ghram 71′), Oussama Haddadi, Hamja Jlassi (Sayfallah Ltaief 46′), Ali Abdi, Wajdi Kechrida, Nader Ghandri, M.A. Ben Romdhane, Aissa Laidouni (captain), Hamza Rafia (Elias Saad 46′), Elias Achouri

Subs not used: Mouez Hassen, Hamza Mathlouthi, Ghaith Zaalouni, Amine Cherni, Mootez Zaddem, Faissai Mannai, Haythem Jouini, Selfeddine Jaziri


Yellow: Ghandri (48′)

Red: Achouri (90+3′)


Referee: Ahmed El Ghandour (Egypt)
Assistant referees: Heni Abdelfattah (Egypt) and Youssef Wahid Youssef Elbosaty (Egypt)
Fourth official: Ibrahim Noureddine (Egypt)
VAR: Tarek Magdy, Amr El Shenawy (Egypt)

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