New Caledonia’s ability to unlock New Zealand’s defence in their OFC Stage 3 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier in Koné is shaping as the key to whether Les Cagous get their qualification dreams back on track or the All Whites seize further control of Group A.
Much has been made of New Zealand’s ability in the final third with the likes of Marco Rojas, skipper Chris Wood, Kosta Barbarouses and Ryan Thomas all at Anthony Hudson’s disposal but his team’s successful run through the OFC Nations Cup and FIFA World Cup Qualifying so far has been built just as much on defensive resilience.
Setting aside the penalty shootout against Papua New Guinea which sealed qualification to next year’s FIFA Confederations Cup, goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic has not been beaten in 525 minutes against Oceania opposition.
That equates to five and a half matches since Fijian captain Roy Krishna converted a first half penalty in their opening match in Port Moresby in May this year.
New Zealand coach Anthony Hudson says that frugality lays an vital platform.
“It’s important because we’ve got plenty of players who can score goals.,” Hudson said.
“When you get into these matches that are qualifiers – they’re not friendlies, they mean something – we are hard to break down and are organised. At this stage it’s all about results.”
The must-win nature of the match for New Caledonia amplifies the pressure to score but coach Thierry Sardo is confident his side can do what few in the region have done recently, especially with the advantage of home conditions.
“In Papua New Guinea, for the semi-final of the Nations Cup, it was much harder for the New Zealand players and we enjoyed more possession,” Sardo said.
“I think the conditions here could mean the same for us tomorrow and that could lead to more opportunities. It will come down to finishing those chances.
“One goal is we need.”
In team news, defenders Michael Boxall and Kip Colvey return from suspension for New Zealand and New Caledonia have added Paul Roine and Loic Wakanumune to the squad that returned from Auckland. Both camps are free of injury concerns.
Hudson indicated that Boxall and Colvey could come straight back into the line-up.
“I think coming into this game we always planned to use those players for the second game. On a tour like this you always want to try and get fresh legs in where you can so we will certainly make one or two changes so we’re fresh and have a team tomorrow that’s not as run down as after the last game.”
New Zealand captain Chris Wood took only a limited part in Monday’s official training session at Stade Yoshida but the striker indicated at a pre match press conference he would lead the team out on match day.
“I’m good to go. I’ve got no problems and I’m looking forward to it.”
The match is the first between the two nations to be played in Koné, the administrative seat of New Caledonia’s North Province. Kick-off is at 5pm local time (7pm NZT).
New Caledonia vs. New Zealand
Koné, New Caledonia
Tuesday 15 November
Kick-off: 17h00 (local time)
Referee: George TIME (SOL)
Assistant Referee 1: Folio MOEAKI (TGA)
Assistant Referee 2: Stephen SENGA (SOL)
Fourth Official: Kader ZITOUNI (TAH)
Vital Statistics: New Caledonia have a long history with New Zealand on the football field that dates back 29 matches to 1951. The head-to-head record in New Caledonia is even with 8 wins apiece and one draw. However, New Caledonia have not beaten New Zealand at home since 1976.
The Players: Cesar Zeoula, previously known as Cesar Lolohea, is the last player from an OFC nation to score against the All Whites from open play, back in March 2013 when a sensational strike put New Caledonia level with New Zealand in a FIFA World Cup qualifier in Dunedin. New Zealand went on to win 2-1 with a late Tommy Smith header.
Coach Quote: “I hope that bringing the match to the North will add a lot of motivation for the players and inspire the supporters.”
New Caledonia: 1. Thomas SCHMIDT (GK), 2. Loic WAKANUMUNE, 3. Jean-Brice WADRIAKO, 4. Pierre KAUMA, 5. Yoann MERCIER 6. Cedric SANSOT, 7. Joel WAKANUMUNE, 8. Emile BEARUNE, 9. Brice DAHITE, 10. Cesar ZEOULA, 11. Bertrand KAI, 12. Richard SELE, 13. Roy KAYARA, 14. Jacky MEINDU, 15. Joseph ATHALE, 16. Morgan MATHELON, 17. Paul ROINE, 18. Georges GOPE-FENEPEJ, 19. Jorys MENE, 20. Mickael ULILE (GK).
Coach: Thierry SARDO (NCL)
Vital Statistics: Despite their long history, New Zealand have only met New Caledonia five times in FIFA World Cup qualifying including Saturday’s match. In 2008 they won 3-0 and 3-1 in Auckland and Noumea respectively and in 2012 the margins were closer, winning 2-0 in Noumea and 2-1 in Dunedin.
The Players: Defenders Michael Boxall and Kip Colvey return after serving a one match suspension after earning two yellows cards in the knockout stages of the OFC Nations Cup. The return of Boxall may free up Bill Tuiloma to play in a holding midfield role – where he moved to midway through the Auckland match – which in turn allows Ryan Thomas to play a more natural attacking role.
Coach Quote: “We got the news about the earthquake this morning and it was horrific. The first thing we did was make sure players who had family and homes down there were all okay. We just want to send all our best wishes to the people who have been affected and everyone down in that region and hopefully tomorrow night we can do our bit – a very, very small part – to make the country proud.”
New Zealand: 1. Stefan MARINOVIC (GK), 2. Henry CAMERON, 3. Deklan WYNNE, 4. Themi TZIMOPOULOS, 5. Michael BOXALL, 6. Bill TUILOMA, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 9. Chris WOOD (C), 11. Marco ROJAS, 12. Glen MOSS (GK), 13. Monty PATTERSON, 14. Ryan THOMAS, 15. Clayton LEWIS, 16. Louis FENTON, 17. Luke ADAMS, 18. Kip COLVEY, 19. Moses DYER, 20. Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI, 21. Liam GRAHAM, 22. Andrew DURANTE, 23. Tamati WILLIAMS (GK).
Coach: Anthony HUDSON (ENG)