Strong start vital for All Whites, says Emblen
Neil Emblen says it's imperative the All Whites don't repeat the mistakes of Tokyo two months ago and start soundly in tonight's international against South Africa.
With interim manager Emblen only having a vastly limited and inexperienced squad at his disposal for this evening's friendly in Auckland, he says the opening minutes will be important for not only the final result but his bigger objective of executing a fundamental shift forward in tactics.
And with Emblen in the mix to take charge of the team full-time, there could be plenty riding on it.
Yesterday afternoon New Zealand Football described Emblen's starting line-up, which was unveiled by the national body unusually early, as signalling "attacking intent" ahead of tonight's game against a South African team also missing a swathe of key players - whom have also missed out on next month's World Cup in Brazil.
Emblen though, was more measured in his pre-match assessment, pointing to the fact his side's chances in March's 4-2 loss to Japan were totally undermined by conceding four goals in the first 16 minutes.
In the opening phases tonight, defence and basic skills will be just as, if not more, important than blazing attack.
"A big focus of ours will be demonstrating we've moved forward from our experience in Japan," Emblen said.
"We need to eliminate the early mistakes we made in that match and at the same time continue to develop our comfort and composure in possession."
Should Emblen's side weather the opening 20-minutes or so, they will then be given a freer remit.
"We haven't always had regular chances to play at home in front of our fans and our mindset will be to attack and play at a quick tempo but without taking undue risks with the ball," he said.
"We have a great amount of pace in attacking positions and we want to take advantage of that but not at all costs."
Emblen has made two changes from the team beaten by Japan with Stuttgart striker Marco Rojas and midfielder Chris James replacing absentees Chris Wood and Kosta Barbarouses.
Fresh from scoring a double in the Dutch Cup final as his PEC Zwolle side took a 5-1 win over Ajax, Ryan Thomas will be one of the ones to watch in just his second All Whites match.
Elsewhere, any one of four players could make their All Whites debuts from the bench with the Wellington Phoenix duo of Matt Ridenton and Jason Hicks joined by Luke Adams and James Musa.
Tonight's game at Mt Smart Stadium kicks-off at 7.30pm.
New Zealand: 1. Glen Moss (GK), 6. Bill Tuiloma, 7. Tyler Boyd, 8. Michael McGlinchey, 11. Marco Rojas, 13. Chris James, 14. Ryan Thomas, 15. Storm Roux, 18. Tim Payne, 19. Michael Boxall, 22. Andrew Durante. Substitutes: 12. Tamati Williams (GK), 16. Jeremy Brockie, 21. Cameron Howieson, 23. Matt Ridenton, 24. Luke Adams, 25. Jason Hicks, 26. James Musa.