A-League football cannot come to Wellington fast enough for All Whites coach Ricki Herbert following Thursday’s embarrassing 5-0 loss to Venezuela.
New Zealand has been ruthlessly exposed for the second time on their tour of the Americas, conceding an improbable free-kick, a penalty and an own goal during the Maracaibo mauling.
Herbert, who will coach the newly branded Wellington Phoenix in next summer’s A-League, left a somber All Whites dressing room with no illusions of how badly let down he felt or what was expected from his players ahead of the Oceania World Cup qualifying campaign starting in October.
“Ninety to 95 percent of our players have come into the national team environment without a club, without training, without matches and that’s totally unacceptable,” Herbert said.
Herbert said the All Whites had to share the same World Cup ambition as New Zealand Soccer which had “gone out on a limb” to get the national team back on the world stage with quality matches.
“Have we got concerns? You don’t lose 4-0 and 5-0 and not have concerns,” he said.
“The All Whites are a team everyone needs to be proud of and there is a massive responsibility for the team to do well and be successful and we’ve let ourselves down tonight.”
Herbert said it was now imperative that players looked at their commitment to the World Cup campaign and agreed that some could be offered international lifelines by the emergence of the Wellington Phoenix.Ricki Herbert
“It would be too easy to have no solutions to this but we’ve thrown solutions at them – we’ve told them what the next seven months must look like,” he said.
“I’m not saying that I’m at Wellington and everyone should come there. What I’m saying is get yourself to a competitive club.”
He refuses to allow his players to hide behind the fact that Costa Rica (50) and Venezuela (74th) are ranked well above his 129th-rated All Whites as there would be no excuses if New Zealand qualify for a home and away World Cup playoff against Asia’s fifth-ranked team.
“This is a level we have to pit ourselves at because when you look at the rankings in Asia, maybe 12 or 13 teams are above us. If we’re successful in getting through Oceania then we’re going to be playing someone in the top 60 or 70 and we’ve got to be ready for that.”
New Zealand were on the backfoot after just eight minutes when Ricardo Paez beat Mark Paston at his near-post with a curling, left-footed free-kick from a seemingly improbable angle.
Striker Fernando De Ornelas made it 2-0 in the 31st minute when he slipped the ball past a stranded Paston following another defence splitting ball from Venezuela’s midfield.
De Ornelas added his second and Venezuela’s third four minutes after halftime, curling the ball past Paston and into the far-post, side-netting after New Zealand were caught with fullback Noah Hickey out of position.
Fedor Nicolas scored Venezuela’s fourth four minutes from time from the penalty spot after Hickey dragged the halftime substitute down in the box following the nut-meg of All Whites skipper Danny Hay.
New Zealand’s misery was complete in injury-time when Paston watched a parried Juan Arango cross cannon into his net off Hickey.
What disappointed Herbert most was the fact New Zealand produced periods of football of a higher quality than they had against Costa Rica only for lapses of concentration to let them down again.
“I don’t think we got as exposed as much as we did against Costa Rica but when you’ve got players of that [Venezuela’s] technical ability and you lose concentration, there’s only one outcome and that’s getting punished…and we were.”
March 28, 2007
Venezuela 5 (Ricardo Paez 8, Fernando De Ornelas 31, 49; Fedor Nicolas 86, own goal 90+)
New Zealand 0
New Zealand: Mark Paston, Noah Hickey, Steven Old, Danny Hay, Tony Lochhead (Jarrod Smith 59), David Mulligan, Ivan Vicelich, Andy Barron, Leo Bertos (Jeremy Brockie 59), Shane Smeltz, Chris James.
Substitutes not used: James Bannatyne, Che Bunce, Kris Bouckenooghe, Jeremy Christie, Tim Brown.
Venezuela: Renny Vega (Rafael Dudamel 46), Ruben Yori (Roberto Rosales 46), Grendy Perozo (Julio Machado 73), Juan Fuenmayor, Luis Vallenilla (Renier Rodriguez 74), Pedro Fernandez (Alain Giroletti 67), Jesus Meza (Javier Villafraz 46), Ricardo Paez, Juan Arango, Gianacarlo Maldonado, Fernando De Ornelas (Ruberth Morgan 61).
Cautions: Vicelich 38, Fuenmayor 44