A preview of the New Zealand All Whites at the Confederations Cup
Tournament Wrap (OFC Nations Cup)
The All Whites wrapped up their fifth cup triumph with a 4-2 penalty shootout victory over Papua New Guinea. Their 2016 victory officially sealed their record as the Oceania Cups most decorated side, as they added their 2016 trophy to wins in 1973, 1998, 2002 and 2008. This comes with the caveat that second-placed Australia (four titles) will not be able to challenge the kiwis for their crown, as it is widely-known they left the OFC (Oceania Football Confederation) in 2006 and became a member of the AFC (Asian Football confederation).
Anthony Hudson, the so called “young Jose Mourinho” by Harry Redknapp continues to divide critics. With a 42.1% win record over 19 international games with the kiwis, this will be his greatest test so far. One of the youngest ever holders of a UEFA Pro coaching licence at just 36, his qualification for the cup is a decent achievement, however, the All Whites will want to avoid another tournament of three straight defeats. If he and his charges manage to pull off a shock in this tournament and seal NZ’s first win, he will be remembered as more than just the manager who helped the All Whites play a more attractive brand of football.
In the absence of Premier League star defender, West Ham stalwart and NZ captain Winston Reid, a lot of the responsibility will be thrust upon Chris Wood’s broad shoulders. The target-man for English Championship side Leeds United, Wood was scoring goals galore this season for his club side. His side will need their vice-captain to bring that goal-scoring form into these three internationals if the All Whites are to have any hope of upsetting their heavily favoured opposition. Wood will be the most likely to add to NZ’s tally of a mere two goals scored in the three previous tournaments they have been a part of.
Confederations Cup History
This will be the fourth time that NZ have travelled to FIFA’s showpiece event of confederation winners worldwide.
In 1999 a NZ team expected to be dominated in Group B defied expectations in Mexico, posting competitive scores against the United States (1-2), Germany (0-2) and Brazil (0-2) at the Estadio Jalisco in Guadalajara.
In 2003 it was another three losses the All Whites suffered, this time in Group A they went down against Japan (0-3), Colombia (1-3) and against hosts France (0-5).
Their 2009 excursion featured a landmark first draw against Asian Champions Iraq (0-0) in their final game of the tournament held in South Africa. Before that, they had suffered a humbling at the hands of Spain (0-5) and a defeat to the hosts (0-2).
There will be minimal expectation from the small but passionate group of kiwi football supporters watching the confederations cup unfold from all corners of the globe. At home, most eyes will be on the All Blacks efforts against the touring British and Irish Lions side, watching a team that despises losing.
But a dedicated few will be waking in the wee hours to watch the round ball game, and hope against hope that the All Whites can manage a first win in a Confederations Cup tournament.
We will pray for a result against hosts Russia or North American champs Mexico, while we marvel at the skill of European Champions Portugal.