In his fifth World Cup briefing for Friends of Football and the RHFA, All Whites legend Ricki Herbert analyses New Zealand’s 1-0 semi-final win against Tahiti.
By Ricki Herbert
I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised at the highly physical and uncompromising approach of the Tahitians in their semi-final against New Zealand.
The gap between the teams in terms of ability and preparation almost guaranteed the Tahitians would try to intimidate and bully their way through the game.
To some extent, their plan worked as fouls disrupted the flow of the game, giving breathers to the Tahiti players while the All Whites received running repairs from their physio.
Full marks to the All Whites for keeping their patience and composure, and it sure was a relief when Libby Cacace scored his first goal for New Zealand, enough to send them into Thursday’s final.
My impression was that this New Zealand line-up was close to head coach Danny Hay’s strongest starting team and it was interesting to see him play three at the back, and continue to use wing-backs for width and to push high up the pitch.
New All White Nando Pijnaker looked comfortable beside captain Winston Reid and man-of-the-match Bill Tuiloma in a solid backline.
‘Reid has been good value at these qualifiers’
It’ll be interesting to see if Hay keeps that formation against the Solomon Islands on Thursday in a game where the opposition is more likely to throw more players forward, and with speed.
Reid has been good value at these qualifiers, clocking up the game minutes and showing no signs of past injuries or any lack of match fitness, despite not having a current club.
Don’t be surprised if his performances attract interest from clubs who have been monitoring him and wondering whether he’s sufficiently fit to justify a contract.
‘The All Whites need to be more clinical with their finishing’
New Zealand did enough to get through a tricky semi-final but they’ll need to become more clinical with their finishing to take the final and then win an inter-confederation play-off.
They had 16 goal attempts but only half were on target. They’ll need to work on that.
When New Zealand lost their two-legged play-off series against Peru four years ago, they failed to register a shot on target in 180 minutes of football.
That’s how cut-throat it becomes as you get closer to a place in the finals.
I still believe New Zealand is capable and I like the way this crop of All Whites is going about their campaign.
We should all keep believing. Bring on the Solomon Islands!
More of Ricki Herbert’s World Cup briefings
Read what All White legend Ricki Herbert thinks of the World Cup qualifiers in his exclusive briefings for Friends of Football. Click here >>>>