So. That’s the second step out of the way. After the horror that was the OFC Nations Cup in Honiara, nothing less than winning the Oceania qualifying group was acceptable. Job done. But last night’s game was hard going…as a fan and, clearly, as an All White.
The 2-1 injury time win against New Caledonia was a really important result. The performance by New Zealand’s finest wasn’t all that fine, though. At times it was downright ugly. I guess, to a certain extent, that was to be expected. This was a team that hadn’t played together for months and had players travelling in from all over the world. Jet lag, it seems is a great leveller.
Those are the cards we’re dealt, however, so it’s important to find a better way to prepare for the play-offs. A performance is usually all about the preparation and it’s important Ricki Herbert and NZF get this 100% right before the play-offs.
Herbert could also think about getting his selection right. That would help. If he’s going to stick with a back three then Killen in midfield and Brockie wide left won’t work. It didn’t last night and it most definitely won’t against a good team. Having said that, I’m not sure a back three is the best way to go. That’s a discussion for another time.
The bottom line, however, is that in World Cup Qualifying the result is the only thing that counts. I’m sure we all would have like to see a 4-0 thrashing but I guess, given all the challenges, that was never really going to happen. No one’s gonna remember the performance in this match if we end up qualifying for Brazil.
I’m normally one to comment on (well, actually, go off about) the refereeing but I won’t this time. Anyone who was was watching can see for them self how average it was. The foul on Wood was a stonewall red card and what about the kick to Smeltzy’s head? Strebre will be relieved the result turned out as it did.
So we move on to the last game in Honiara. It would probably be wise to pack the big names off home, put out a young side and just get the game out of the way. Just as the result mattered so much in the New Caledonia game, it matters so little against the Solomons.
The real thing to look forward to, however, is another one of those nights in Wellington. I was there in November 2009 and in South Africa. I plan on being there in November 2013. And maybe Brazil, too…?
One final thing. I’ve already seen a number of trolls bagging this result, using the argument that we should be thrashing countries like New Caledonia. My response to that is: Why? Using the same logic, and in a language most kiwi sports fans can understand, China, Brazil, India, the USA, in fact just about any country, should beat New Zealand at rugby. But they don’t. It’s sport and it’s far more complext than that. Time to get out more.