May 27, 2012
AUCKLAND – A Shane Smeltz header just before halftime has fired the All Whites to a gutsy 1-0 win over Honduras in Dallas, Texas this afternoon.
Smeltz rose between the two centre backs to meet Jeremy Brockie’s pinpoint left foot cross and give the All Whites a timely boost ahead of the OFC Nations Cup – which double as New Zealand’s first World Cup qualifiers – starting on June 1 in the Solomon Islands.
“The guys were fantastic tonight,” said New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert.
“We’ve backed up, Honduras haven’t. They were fresh and I thought we might be a little lethargic. Honduras are fantastic opposition to play against and I thought we took it to another level today.”
All Whites skipper Tommy Smith said the team had real momentum heading into the start of the World Cup qualifying campaign in Honiara.
“It’s a great result really,” said Smith.
“The draw against El Salvador was a positive result and to build on that looks positive coming into the Solomons.”
The memory of the victory may well be drawn upon if the All Whites progress through to the final stage of 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying – a home and away playoff against the fourth placed North or Central American nation in November 2013.
In 32 degree heat and on a pitch cut up from an international between EL Salvador and Moldova played as the first half of a double header, the match initially failed to live up to the pace of Thursday’s 2-2 draw against the Salvadorans.
New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert made two changes to the starting line up from that match, handing Aaron Clapham his first chance in a run-on 11 and playing Jeremy Brockie on the right of midfield.
He was soon forced to switch Brockie to the left for Ian Hogg, who left the field with what appeared to be a knock to the ribs. The move, while a setback for Hogg who impressed on his debut midweek, paid off with Brockie getting in behind Honduras to set up Smeltz’s 18th international goal in the 45th minute.
Striker Chris Wood was a constant threat after entering the game at halftime, teeing up Clapham and Brockie for chances they failed to get on target, and whizzing a low freekick just past the outside of the Honduran goal.
He also laid on a great chance for Kosta Barbarouses who would have been odds on to double the lead if the ball hadn’t got caught beneath his feet with 25 minutes to go.
Honduras enjoyed their fair share of chances, especially as the match drew to a close and the All Whites energy levels drained. They twice hit the post – the first effort in the 61st minute helped on to the woodwork by a timely intervention from Smith.
Seven of the starting 11 were aged 25 or younger as were five of the six substitutes used by Herbert. Tim Payne (18) and Adam McGeorge (23) were given debuts off the bench in the second half and 17-year-old Cameron Howieson was given another extended run after Thursday’s debut.
“As an ex All White I’m really proud to see the depth and quality of the players coming through,” Herbert said.
“I’m pleased we’ve been given the chance to blood them at this level of international football.
“They’ve worked hard, trained really well and they took everything on to the pitch. The discipline and organisation tonight by them was terrific. Tommy Smith has done a great job leading that side and I thought Ivan Vicelich with the wealth of experience and true professionalism he brings was very good tonight. Around that now we have some really good energy and pace.”
The All Whites fly out to the Solomon Islands via Brisbane, where they will be joined by Tony Lochhead, Winston Reid and Chris Killen ahead of the OFC Nations Cup. They spend a day in Australia before arriving in Honiara on Wednesday.
New Zealand 1 (Shane SMELTZ 45’)
May 26, 2012
Cotton Bowl Stadium
New Zealand: 1-Mark PASTON (GK), 4-Ben SIGMUND (19-Michael BOXALL 46’), 5-Tommy SMITH (captain), 15-Ivan VICELICH, 16-Jeremy BROCKIE, 18-Aaron CLAPHAM, 8-Michael MCGLINCHEY, 10-Ian HOGG (7-Leo BERTOS 19’ / 22-Tim PAYNE 75’), 11-Marco ROJAS (21-Cameron HOWIESON 64’), 9-Shane SMELTZ (20-Chris WOOD 46’), 17-Kosta BARBAROUSES (13-Adam MCGEORGE 89’).
Substitutes not used: 12-Glen MOSS (RGK), 24-Jake GLEESON (RGK).
Coach: Ricki HERBERT
Cautions: Shane SMELTZ 35’
OFC Nations Cup / FIFA World Cup qualifying
2-10 June 2012
Lawson Tama Stadium
Honiara, Solomon Islands
Matches streamed online at www.oceaniafootball.com
New Zealand v Fiji
June 2, 12pm (1pm NZT)
New Zealand v PNG
June 4, 12pm (1pm NZT)
New Zealand v Solomon Islands
June 6, 3pm (4pm NZT)
June 8, 11am & 3pm (12pm & 4pm)
June 10, 3pm (4pm)