New Zealand has set themselves up nicely in their bid to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ Qualifiers – OFC Stage 3 final after a 2-0 win in Lautoka on Saturday, but as they welcome Fiji to Wellington for the return leg – it’s clear their opponents won’t be offering a clear path through.
Anthony Hudson’s All Whites played to their strengths in Fiji, pressing high and eventually forcing the errors which led to their two goals.
And with just a draw required to see them through to the Stage 3 final against the top side in Group B, the New Zealanders are keen to make it clear they deserve to lead Group A after four matches.
“I think what happened in Fiji has definitely allowed me to do what I planned to do,” Hudson said.
“I’ve always said this tour we’re really going to look at selection for the Confederations Cup so if I can, I want to get as many players on the pitch as possible, but the main objective is to win the game.”
The Englishman is confident in his players and believes fans at Westpac Stadium are in for an exciting and confident display from the home side.
“I think looking at the game, the first half we probably weren’t really in any danger, however we were just a little bit edgy,” Hudson explained.
“I think we came out and had a bit more purpose in the second half, we got a bit more confidence with the goal and then the second one followed.
“I think we just have to focus on the fact we have certain types of players – Marco Rojas, Ryan Thomas and then obviously, Chris Wood – we have some good strikers, some wing-backs and wide players who can put some really good crosses in.
“I think we’ve got to play to our strengths. Tuesday is about fine-tuning a few areas but definitely we want to be scoring some more goals.”
While New Zealand are out to find the back of the net, Fiji are keen to keep things tight at the back and hopefully avoid making any more costly errors at the back.
Fiji’s coach Christophe Gamel believed his side had done well to keep the All Whites locked out for the first 45 minutes of the match, but believed two lapses on defence in Fiji now made things much more difficult for his side in Wellington.
“It will be extremely difficult,” the Frenchman acknowledged.
“If you look at the match Saturday, it’s us who gave them the goals,
“But we don’t have a choice, we’ll try and do everything we can to win. New Zealand will be waiting and will do what they can to counter us, but we’ll give our all to try and get the victory.”
Gamel, who replaced former Socceroo coach Frank Farina who led the Bula Boys during last year’s OFC Nations Cup, has made remarkable progression with the side in a short space of time.
Replacing the long balls and reliance on coming out superior in physical duels, Gamel has brought a new style to Fiji and it’s one he hopes to see stay and develop further over time.
“It’s my vision for the game and it’s why the Fiji FA president Rajesh Patel and his board, brought me here,” he explained.
“I’m trying to develop a new type of football, a more modern football, which is not focused solely on the physical aspects but also on the technical development of players.
“That’s my vision for the game, and I want them to be keeping the ball and making those passes.”
New Zealand vs. Fiji
Wellington, New Zealand
Tuesday 28 March
Referee: Kader ZITOUNI (TAH)
Assistant Referee 1: Folio MOEAKI (TGA)
Assistant Referee 2: Sione TEU (TGA)
Fourth Official: Nelson SOGO (SOL)
Vital Statistics: New Zealand need just one point from this encounter to progress to the final of this stage of the qualifiers, where they winner of Group B awaits.
The Players: Goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic may not have had a lot to do, but when he was called into action he impressed. Marco Rojas showed determination up front, while Deklan Wynne and Michael Boxall were key at the back, keeping Roy Krishna well in check.
Coach Quote: “Maybe Fiji will change a few things, we don’t know. But we need to respect them. They’ve got some dangerous players sot eh biggest challenge for us is that we progress from that previous performance. We don’t want to sit on our laurels and just take comfort with where we’re at, we need to kick on in this second game.”
New Zealand: 1. Stefan MARINOVIC (GK), 3. Deklan WYNNE, 4. Themistoklis TZIMOPOULOS, 5. Michael BOXALL, 7. Dane INGHAM, 8. Michael McGLINCHEY, 9. Chris WOOD, 10. Shane SMELTZ, 11. Marco ROJAS, 12. Glen MOSS (GK), 13. Alex RUFER, 14. Ryan THOMAS, 15. Clayton LEWIS, 16. Sam BROTHERTON, 17. Tom DOYLE, 18. Kip COLVEY, 19. Moses DYER, 20. Tommy SMITH, 21. Jai INGHAM, 22. Andrew DURANTE, 23. Tamati WILLIAMS
Suspended: 6. Bill TUILOMA
Coach: Anthony HUDSON (ENG)
Vital Statistics: Fiji must beat New Zealand if they want to prevent the All Whites from topping Group A and have any chance of continuing their own journey. However they haven’t beaten the Kiwis since 2008.
The Players: Without a doubt, Fiji’s shining star is striker Roy Krishna. Not only is he the creator up front, but he was also dropping into the depths of his own half to try and keep New Zealand from getting on the scoresheet. Also making a strong case was Dave Radrigai who made some impressive jaunts forward, and like Krishna, was an effective presence in defence when he needed to be.
Coach Quote: “We managed the match well, despite the loss, but we need to be even better. We need to defend better and to make the most of our chances because against the best team in Oceania – nothing is easy.”
Fiji: 1. Simione TAMANISAU (GK), 2. Avinesh SUWAMY, 3. Kavaia RAWAQA, 4. Dave RADRIGAI, 5. Laitia TUILAU, 6. Jone VESIKULA, 7. Epeli SAUKURU, 8. Setareki HUGHES, 9. Roy KRISHNA, 10. Samuela DRUDRU, 11. James HOYT, 12. Remueru TEKIATE, 13. Josateki TAMUDU, 14. Rinal PRASAD, 15. Osea VAKATALESAU, 16. Peniame DROVA, 17. Kolinio SIVOKI, 18. Taniela WAQA, 19. Vereti DICKSON (GK), 20. Beniamino MAETINAQARA (GK)
Coach: Christophe GAMEL (FRA)