All Whites coach Anthony Hudson is calling for New Zealand to get behind his team as they look to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
It was confirmed yesterday New Zealand will face Peru in the Intercontinental Playoff in November when the World No 12 finished in fifth place on the CONMEBOL standings.
Hudson, who had just arrived in home from Japan, watched a tense final day in the South American playoffs with four games on at one time and the leaderboard on a laptop. He got the team he was hoping for.
“Whoever we got, it was going to be a tough game, but of all the sides Peru is a team that I would have like to have played,” said Hudson. “I had no emotion to who was going to come out, but now that we know we can start planning. Peru are a very good team, they are very highly ranked, they got a great result against Argentina, but I felt out of all of teams they would give us confidence coming into the game.”
The details for the Intercontinental Playoff are still to be confirmed, but it is known the All Whites will host the home leg first at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
Hudson said there is huge belief within his squad and is calling for his team to deliver their biggest performance of the past three years. If they do, then they have a chance.
“The home game for us is massive for us. We need a big crowd and we need a big atmosphere. When we went to Nagoya last week the home crowd was unbelievable. They were loud the whole game. Any mistake we made, they were all over it which only adds to that pressure. We need that atmosphere in Wellington. Our home fans are the 12th man.”
Hudson was asked about how the All Whites – ranked 113th on the FIFA World Rankings – would compete with the World No 12 in a two-legged tie, but he remained the rankings are false.
“If you look at all of the teams in world football, we are probably the only team to only have an away record. If you take Peru’s record – or any of the South American teams – they have a home and away record but we don’t have a home record other than three games against the Island teams over the past three years, plus we played the least amount of games early in our campaign. For this window the rankings get put to one side.”
Hudson said his team, who this year competed at the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia, has belief because they have gone toe-to-toe with many world-class sides. They took World No 40 Japan all the way last week and have pushed Mexico and the USA away from home.
“The other day we played Japan who are right up there in quality and depth and strength. Apart from two or three things we did in that game, we went toe to toe with a good side away from home in front of a hostile crowd. If that is a two-legged affair, then we are in the tie. That is what we base our belief off.”
Hudson said the Ricardo Gareca-managed team are in for a huge challenge with regards to the travel and jet-lag which is something his team have become accustomed to over time.
He reiterated the point that the All Whites need to be as fit as possible as they look to upset Peru over two-legs.
“The last 20 minutes of this tie are going to be absolutely critical and fitness is going to play a huge role in that. We need the fitness to be able to deliver our game plan and it is going to come down to that last 10 – 15 minutes.”
There are 10 players – Chris Wood, Glen Moss, Tommy Smith, Bill Tuiloma, Michael McGlinchey, Shane Smeltz, Marco Rojas, Storm Roux, Kosta Barbarouses and Andrew Durante – who were part of the All Whites squad that went down 9 – 3 on aggregate against Mexico in 2013 and Hudson said they’d be better from that experience.
“The one thing they can probably take from it was pain. The pain of losing and not wanting that to happen again,” he said.
The team has been building towards this international window over the past three years and Hudson said his team is ready to make history by becoming the third New Zealand team to qualify for a FIFA World Cup.
“We want this to be an unforgettable couple of games and we believe this will be our biggest performance of the window. To do that, we need the fans right behind us.”
FIFA World Cup – Intercontinental Playoff
Who: All Whites v Peru
Where: Westpac Stadium, Wellington and Peru (Location, TBC)
What: Two-legged qualifier for a place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia