New Caledonia coach Thierry Sardo is well aware that the two match face-off with New Zealand in Oceania Stage 3 Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Russia™ will be on his doorstep in no time at all.
The matches are scheduled for 12 November in Auckland and 15 November in Kone, and Sardo hopes two friendlies against the Solomon Islands this month will be a good start to their preparations.
“It’s really good that the Federation has been able to put us in good conditions to prepare for New Zealand in November,” Les Cagous coach said.
“My first wish was to try and secure two matches against an Asian side. But to be able to go to Solomons to play two international matches, that’s a good start.”
Sardo has named a 17-man squad to travel to Honiara and while the Bonitos play a different style of game compared with the Kiwi side, it undoubtedly remains a key pair of encounters.
“Obviously they don’t play the same style of game as the New Zealanders, but they’re a very good side and interesting opposition,” Sardo said.
During its Nations Cup campaign New Caledonia had a trio of France-based players to call on, and while they won’t be travelling to Solomon Islands Sardo believes the players he has at his disposition can do the job.
“We will be without our players from Metropole for this double header against the Solomon Islands but that’s not necessarily a problem.
“We know that we have 25-30 players of excellent quality, with a few who have come into contention since the OFC Nations Cup and offer something different,” Sardo explained.
“Some have come back to live here and they’re interesting options who bring the squad some new opportunities to consider. We have to choose wisely when the day comes.
“The framework remains the same overall. We have certainties in a lot of positions. But certain newcomers could also bring new blood and we need to make that choice.”
While the focus is on the upcoming friendlies, the underlying objective for Sardo and his assistant Pierre Wajoka remains how to overcome Anthony Hudson’s charges.
“I have some ideas,” he said.
“We’ve studied the way they play, myself and my assistant. Maybe for the away game, we need to play a little differently to how we intend to play at home.
“We know, without a doubt, that these two matches will be difficult and it’s important for us to have at least a week with the full squad to work on our approach.”
Of course analysing an upcoming opponent is important, but OFC A Licence contender Sardo believes self-analysis is of equal importance.
“New Zealand will be looking at us, getting to know our strengths and our weaknesses. We need to understand that about ourselves as well,” he explained.
“Against New Zealand, we can’t just go in just to combat, because in the duels New Zealand are incredibly strong.
“The team needs to apply the qualities of their game first of all, speed and use of space, and from there we can cause problems.”
New Caledonia will travel to Honiara for two friendly matches scheduled for the 5 and 8 October at Lawson Tama Stadium.
For more on New Caledonia football visit www.fedcalfoot.com