All Whites coach Anthony Hudson believes his squad is in a great place heading into the business end of their FIFA World Cup Qualifying campaign.
The OFC Nations Cup champions booked their place in the Intercontinental Playoff in November when they defeated the Solomon Islands 8- 3 on aggregate.
New Zealand won the first leg 6-1 at home, with skipper Chris Wood scoring his second international hat-trick, and then backed it up with a 2-2 draw in Honiara to secure their place in a playoff against the fifth-ranked South American team in two months’ time.
The All Whites travel home from Honiara today and Hudson said there were many positives to come from the Final Stage of OFC Qualifying. Confidence and depth is building within his All Whites squad.
“I’m very happy,” said Hudson. “It’s been a very successful tour and a sign of how far we’ve come. We qualified to the Intercontinental Playoff without some of our best players, Winston Reid, Tommy Smith, Marco Rojas and Shane Smeltz.”
He said the depth which he has been able to develop over the past three years enabled him to make some tough decisions – like the omission of midfielders Clayton Lewis and Bill Tuiloma and releasing Dane Ingham for a lack of conditioning – is a sign of how far his team has come.
“I was able to make some strong decisions on three players, and leave them out due to fitness issues, decisions we couldn’t make a year ago because we didn’t have the depth in our squad,” said Hudson. “We’ve were also able to send home early Chris Wood and Ryan Thomas due to the long flight back from Honiara to Europe.”
Hudson was pleased with the way his young squad handled the heat and humidity in Honiara to finish off the tie and also maintain their unbeaten record against Oceania opposition.
“I’ve been able to protect three players from suspension who were on yellow cards [Michael McGlinchey, Michael Boxall and Kip Colvey], so we arrive to November with everyone available, and on top of that it has given me a chance to look at one or two young players too. The players have been first class, winning 8-3 on aggravate, so all in all, it has been a very positive tour.”
The All Whites will next assemble in the October FIFA international window (2- 10 October) as they get ready for the Intercontinental Playoff in November.
The dates and the opposition for the Intercontinental Playoff in November are yet to be confirmed.
— New Zealand Football (@NZ_Football) September 6, 2017