All Whites coach Ricki Herbert is adamant New Zealand’s bid to qualify for the 2010 World Cup will be enhanced - rather than hindered - by the football lesson Costa Rica handed his side on Sunday.Ivan Vicelich lets rip
The newly crowned Central American champions humbled New Zealand 4-0 with two goals in each half – the last of them a dubious penalty - at San Jose’s Richardo Saprissa Stadium.
It was not the start to 2007 Herbert had hoped for although the result was not entirely unpredictable given that Costa Rica are ranked 79 places above an out-of-season All Whites lineup missing Ryan Nelsen, Simon Elliott and Chris Killen and playing on a foreign artificial pitch.
Herbert was especially disappointed with the defensive hesitancy that gifted Costa Rica 8th and 19th minute goals to Alvaro Sabono and Alonso Solis respectively.
Midfield whiz Bryan Ruiz added Costa Rica’s third when he pounced on a defensive collision between Che Bunce and Tim Brown after 58 minutes before Sabono completed the rout from the penalty spot when All Whites captain Danny Hay was cruelly pinged for hand ball.
The bumpy, bouncy synthetic pitch in Costa Rica’s capital did not help New Zealand but Herbert was not looking for excuses afterwards. He stood by his decision to experiment with a back three and to continually pitch his under-strength All Whites against opponents ranked well above them.
Herbert is convinced the tough build-up will help New Zealand qualify for the Confederations Cup in 2009 by winning in Oceania as well as giving his side a genuine chance in a potential World Cup playoff with Asia’s fifth-ranked team in early 2010.
“Our ambition is to be back on the world stage in 2009 but before then we’re going to take a few beltings along the way…tonight was one of them,” Herbert said.
“But I’ve got no doubt these sorts of hurdles will hold us in good stead when we come to World Cup qualifying in Oceania.
“If you’re not going to learn from nights like this, then I don’t think you’re ever going to learn and I’d rather be facing these nights than sitting at home contemplating what it might be like.”
Herbert knows his decision to play a back three will be put under a media microscope but refuses to believe the experiment backfired. Instead he pointed to defensive hesitancy by players wary of the unfamiliar surface – many of them who haven’t played club football for two months – for Costa Rica’s goals.
It took the introduction of 19-year-old Fulham reserve team playmaker Chris James – on in the 63rd minute for striker Jeremy Brockie – to spark the All Whites. Starting striker Shane Smeltz battled gamely for 90 minutes and central midfielder Ivan Vicelich grew into the game but New Zealand were otherwise let down by a poor first touch and wasted possession.
Herbert said the acid was now on individuals to stand up when New Zealand face 74th-ranked Venezuela on Thursday (11am NZT). Utility David Mulligan joins the side on Monday (NZT) for the match in Maracaibo after playing the full 90 minutes for English League One leaders Scunthorpe United in their draw at Leyton Orient on Sunday (NZT).
“It takes a lot to disappoint me but I was disappointed today. There’s going to have to be some individual responsibility,” Herbert said. Chris James made an instant impact after replacing Jeremy Brockie in the 63rd minute
“The good thing is the players won’t leave this dressing room without being massively disappointed…we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
San Jose, Costa Rica
March 24, 2007
Costa Rica 4 (Alvaro Sabono 9, 80 pen; Alonso Solis 19, Bryan Ruiz 58) New Zealand 0. Halftime: 2-0.
New Zealand: Mark Paston, Che Bunce, Danny Hay (captain), Steven Old, Tim Brown (Jeremy Christie 85), Ivan Vicelich, Noah Hickey, Tony Lochhead (Kris Bouckenooghe 63), Leo Bertos, Shane Smeltz, Jeremy Brockie (Chris James 63).
Substitutes not used: Glen Moss, Andy Barron, Jarrod Smith.
Costa Rica: Dexter Lewis, Victor Cordero (captain), Pablo Chinchilla, Andres Nunez, Micheal Umana, Roy Miller (Leonardo Gonzalez 72), Michael Barrantes (Walter Centeno 59) , Rodolfo Rodriguez, Alonso Solis (Rolando Fonseca 65), Bryan Ruiz, Alvaro Sabono (Windell Gabriels 80).
Cautions: Hay 75, Brown 83.
Referee: Edgar Rodriguez (Costa Rica)