The All Whites may be about to face the tenth-ranked team on the planet away from home but coach Anthony Hudson insists his side will not be approaching the second leg of the FIFA World Cup Intercontinental Playoff against Peru with any trepidation.
Despite the huge gap between the sides on the FIFA world rankings, New Zealand proved their can foot it with the fifth-placed South Americans with a pulsating scoreless draw in front of a packed house at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium on Saturday and will look to finish the job by qualifying for a third World Cup in Lima on Thursday afternoon (NZT).
To do so, they will require a healthy dose of belief and Hudson says that particular quality is not lacking in the All Whites camp.
“I think we have even more belief now – we’re at the halfway point and are going into a scenario where the pressure really is all on Peru,” he says.
“We wanted to deliver a performance the country would be proud of and I hope we did that. But I said to them in the changing rooms after the game that they should be proud but getting a draw against a top-ten team is not enough for us, we’re not satisfied with this. We want more – that’s the attitude and the mind-set,” he adds.
“I think the whole footballing world expects Peru to win and I don’t think anyone would be wrong in saying that when you look at the teams on paper. That’s all fine with us because we believe we’re going to win.”
After suffering delays on the way to Lima, the All Whites finally arrived late last night and have been greeted with intense media scrutiny in the football-mad nation, who are looking to qualify for their first World Cup since 1982. The prying eyes made getting in a worthwhile training session tricky but Hudson says the group are taking everything in their stride.
“With all the cameras over the wall and people on the roofs and all that we didn’t do a lot. But it’s all cat and mouse which is quite fun,” he says.
Despite all the interest in the visitors, Peru will be under immense pressure to satisfy the expectations of their passionate fans and Hudson is comfortable with his team playing the role of party-poopers.
“The scenario for us is one we’re really embracing in the sense that we go into an environment where the pressure is all on them from their home fans. We know what to expect going into the game because they have to come out and score,” he says.
“So it will be a different type of game than the first leg. We don’t have to be in a rush to go out and score. We know we’ll get chances, whenever we go away from home – Japan, Mexico, USA – we’ve always scored and we’re a better team than we were back then. It’s a really good scenario for us to be in because we know the longer it goes on with this scoreline the tougher it will be for Peru.”
Hudson has complete faith in the ability of his players to pull off what would be among the greatest ever results in the history of New Zealand football at the Estadio Nacional.
“The way the players are working and the way they’re really committed to each other gives me so much belief. If and when we get it right we’re going to be a very good football team and we have to make that Wednesday night,” he says.
“No one in our squad is fearful or doubting – everyone believes we can get a result.”
FIFA World Cup – Intercontinental Playoff
Wednesday 15 November, 9.15pm (Thursday 16 November, 3.15pm NZT)
Estadio Nacional de Lima, Peru
New Zealand (from): 1. Stefan Marinovic (GK), 2. Winston Reid (c), 3. Deklan Wynne, 4. Themi Tzimopoulos, 5. Michael Boxall, 6. Bill Tuiloma, 7. Kosta Barbarouses, 8. Michael McGlinchey, 9. Chris Wood, 10. Shane Smeltz, 11. Marco Rojas, 12. Glen Moss (GK), 13. Monty Patterson, 14. Ryan Thomas, 15. Clayton Lewis, 16. Dane Ingham, 17. Jeremy Brockie, 18. Kip Colvey, 19. Rory Fallon, 20. Tommy Smith, 22. Andrew Durante, 23. Max Crocombe (GK)
Coach: Anthony Hudson