Hudson: ‘We hold no fear’

All Whites official Stadium Walk through, Krestovsky Stadium, St Petersburg Russia, Friday 15th June 2017. Shane Wenzlick / www.phototek.nz

All Whites coach Anthony Hudson has said his team will play without fear in the opening game of the FIFA Confederations Cup.

New Zealand will return to a FIFA event for the first time in seven years – since the heroics of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa – when they take on World No 63 Russia tomorrow night in front of a near capacity crowd in St Petersburg.  It is a hugely pivotal game in both team’s chances at the ‘Tournament of Champions’ .

The OFC Nations Cup Champions completed a walk-through of the recently completed Krestovsky Stadium in fine and warm conditions today as they prepared for the opening night which will be a special occasion for many reasons.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and FIFA President Gianni Infantino will be at the opening game which marks the first time Russia have competed in this tournament. It is the first official game at the space-age and impressive Krestovsky Stadium which has been 10 years in the making.

General view. All Whites official Stadium Walk through, Krestovsky Stadium, St Petersburg Russia, Friday 15th June 2017. Shane Wenzlick / www.phototek.nz

The All Whites aren’t too fussed about any of that. All they are focused on is a performance that will make people back home in New Zealand proud and capture the attention of the football world.

“It is a game that we come into and we are incredibly optimistic,” said Hudson. “We can’t wait for this moment. We need to have absolutely no fear of this tournament or the teams that we are coming up against. We want to beat these teams and we are going to set out to do that.”

New Zealand are competing for the fourth time at the FIFA Confederations Cup and are looking to win their first game in the event. It will be only the second meeting between Russia (including the Soviet Union) and New Zealand – they met in the 1982 World Cup with the Soviet Union winning 3-0.

Hudson said the team were impressed by the Colosseum-like atmosphere of Krestovsky Stadium and could not wait for kick off.

“You are there and we just want to put in a performance that is going to do ourselves proud. I am sure we will. We want to savour every single moment and make sure that when we walk away from the stadium tomorrow night we have no regrets.”

All Whites striker Chris Wood is looking forward to leading his team out for opening game of the tournament.

“It is going to be a great feeling walking out there tomorrow,” said the 24-year-old. “It will definitely be the biggest crowd that I have ever walked out in front of as captain. It is going to be a pleasure to lead these boys out in a game that is as big as this.”

Wood, a key man for New Zealand’s chances up front, said in the pressure-filled environment with the world watching it was hugely important for the team to enjoy the occasion.

“We cannot go into the match fearing anything or worrying about making a mistake. It is not about that. It is all about enjoying the occasion and that is when this team plays their best football. When you are relaxed you play well and that is what we’d like to show.”

Both Wood and Hudson said the team knows what they have to do to upset Russia – it is all about hard work and mentality.

“Everyone one of us has to stick to the game plan,” said Hudson. “We need to have belief. We need to have no fear. There will be around 60,000 home supporters there. Outside of our little group, in the whole world no one expects us to do anything at this tournament. We are ranked much lower than them, but we have a huge amount of belief that we can pull something off if we fight for each other.”

Wood added: “First and foremost we have to work hard and work hard for each other. We need to go out there and give it our all. If we do that the rest will follow. Our game will come through.”

Wood said the team were under no illusions. They have seen the quality of Russia and know that Stanislav Cherchesov and his side are a team under pressure to perform.

“We are looking forward to giving them a good game because we know that we are good enough to do that.”

He said his team has been gearing up for this moment since Hudson took over the team around three years ago. When the Gaffer first started he set the goal of competing in the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia in 2017 and then the FIFA World Cup in 2018.

“We have achieved one of those goals so now we are here we have to enjoy it and make the most of it,” said Wood.  “We could put everybody on the map and get everyone looking at us from moment one in this tournament. This is the game that we wanted. It is something that we can sink our teeth into and we believe it will give us a good stepping stone to carry on and continue in this tournament.”

Hudson, an Englishman who has lived in New Zealand for the past three years, said he has learned a lot about Kiwi spirit and expects to see it displayed by his team. He said true Kiwis don’t turn up at big events like this just to take part.

“Real Kiwis and the players that we have in this team show an incredible amount of spirit and fight and most of all want to prove people wrong. That is at the heart of our team. That spirit and fight is what I have seen to be a proud Kiwi and that will be the driving force for us tomorrow.”

New Zealand (from): 1. Stefan Marinovic (GK), 2. Sam Brotherton, 3. Deklan Wynne, 4. Themi Tzimopoulos, 5. Michael Boxall, 6. Bill Tuiloma, 7. Kosta Barbarouses, 8. Michael McGlinchey, 9. Chris Wood (c), 10. Shane Smeltz, 11. Marco Rojas, 12. Glen Moss (GK), 13. Monty Patterson, 14. Ryan Thomas, 15. Clayton Lewis, 16. Dane Ingham, 17. Thomas Doyle, 18. Kip Colvey, 19. Alex Rufer, 20. Tommy Smith, 21. Storm Roux, 22. Andrew Durante, 23. Tamati Williams (GK) Coach: Anthony Hudson

Russia (from): 1. Igor Akinfeev (c) (GK), 2. Igor Smolnikov, 3. Roman Shishkin, 4. Iury Gazinsky, 5. Viktor Vasin, 6. Georgy Dzhikya, 7. Dmitry Poloz, 8. Denis Glushakov, 9. Fedor Smolov, 10. Ruslan Kambolov, 11. Aleksandr Bukharov, 12. Vladimir Gabulov (GK), 13. Fedor Kudriashov, 14. Ilya Kutepov, 15. Alexey Miranchuk, 16. Guilherme (GK), 17. Aleksandr Golovin, 18. Yury Zhirkov, 19. Alexander Samedov, 20. Maksim Kanunnikov, 21. Aleksandr Erokhin, 22. Dmitry Tarasov, 23. Dmitry Kombarov ”
Coach: Stanislav Cherchesov

2017 FIFA Confederations Cup – All Whites draw
17 June 6pm (3am 18 June NZT) v Russia, Krestovsky Stadium, St Petersburg
21 June 9pm (6am 22 June NZT) v Mexico Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi
24 June 6pm (3am 25 June NZT) v Portugal, Krestovsky Stadium, St Petersburg
Live on SKY Sport

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