New Zealand – New Caledonia Match Summary click here
New Caledonia coach Stephane Drahusak and his players knew they would be up against it against the tournament favourites but even they would have been shocked by the clinical nature of the performance from New Zealand, who were 8-0 up by the half-time whistle.
Drahusak’s charges managed to keep their rampant rivals quiet during the game’s opening moments but, once the first goal went in, there was no letting up throughout the rest of the first half as New Zealand put on a clinical exhibition of set-piece finishing.
Eight of the goals arrived in that fashion but the first came from open play and an unsurprising source. Midfielder Marco Rojas inspired his country to a 3-0 win over the Solomon Islands on Saturday – scoring once and setting up the other two strikes – and was up to his tricks again this afternoon, sliding in on the edge of the box to convert at Cory Chettleburgh cross that had been headed on by Dakota Lucas in the 12th minute.
It was 2-0 just a couple of minutes later when an Anthony Hobbs long throw was flicked on by Wellington Phoenix defender James Musa and found its way to Lucas, who back heeled the ball over the line from almost underneath the crossbar.
If conceeding twice so early wasn’t enough for New Caledonia to realise they could be in for a long day, they were left in little doubt by the 17th minute when Rojas got on the scoresheet again, curling a delightful shot past goalkeeper William Devic to make it 3-0 and all but secure victory for New Zealand.
That was the last of the goals from open play as coach Chris Milicich’s team made the most of their wealth of corners and free kicks to keep the scorers busy. Musa scored twice in two minutes, the 20th and the 21st, with a pair of headers from Andrew Milne and Rojas corners respectively, before captain Nick Branch joined in on the fun to notch a seven-minute hat-trick.
Two of the goals were prodded in with his head from Milne dead-ball deliveries before the skipper got his foot on the end of another Rojas corner to complete his hat-trick in the 38th minute.
The only reply the shell-shocked New Caledonians could muster during the opening half was a speculative long-range effort from Ludwig Zeoula that flew harmlessly wide of Stefan Marinovic’s goal.
But they did manage to regroup in the second half and put a halt to the scoring as New Zealand found the net just two more times in the second spell.
The first of those arrived from yet another Rojas-Musa corner combination in the 56th minute which resulted in Musa joining central defensive partner Branch as a hat-trick scorer.
And, somewhat fittingly, it was a set-piece which wrapped up the scoring, this time of the spot-kick variety. Adam Thomas was brought down in the box by New Caledonia defender Medhi Mapou and the Auckland City midfielder stepped up himself to dispatch it past Devic for New Zealand’s eighth goal of the afternoon.
Milicich was understandably delighted with the performance and believes his side have made big strides since that first match against Solomon Islands, particularly in dead-ball situations.
“Our delivery and our runs were spot on,” he says. “It’s not very often that both centre backs get hat tricks but they can’t score unless the ball’s in the right place and they make the right runs.”
The manner of the goals would suggest that the victors did not keep the ball on the floor too often but Milicich feels the opposite was true.
“I thought we played some great football,” he says. “We took a step up today and moved the ball really well and created problems. We kept the ball safe at the back and when we had the opportunity to move forward with pace on the deck we did.”
Drahusak was disappointed with the manner of the defeat but admits his team were beaten by a better side.
“We caught New Zealand on a very good day and they played very well,” he says.
New Caledonia were missing two players, Jean Claude Jewine and Robert Dokunengo, due to suspension and Drahusak says their absence made a difference.
“We knew it was going to be tough to get to the semis and, without two of our key players, it was going to be even more difficult. Once they had five in the first half an hour the players heads dropped and we didn’t play to our abilities.”