All Whites looking for football redemption

Last updated 17:21 05/09/2012
Ricki Herbert
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RICKI HERBERT: "A winning start to the campaign is vital as we don't want to open the door for anyone else to build momentum."

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Redemption will be driving New Zealand as they open their third round campaign of Oceania's qualifying tournament for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil against New Caledonia in Noumea on Friday.

Ricki Herbert's side were humbled 2-0 by New Caledonia in the semi-finals of the Oceania Nations Cup in June, which cost them the opportunity of a million-dollar payday and attendance at next year's Confederations Cup in Brazil.

The All Whites, who qualified for the 2010 finals in South Africa and were undefeated in their group, were heavily criticised at home after the Nations Cup where they struggled with the pace of the Pacific Island sides and the oppressive heat in the Solomon Islands.

Herbert's decision to take the squad to North America for friendlies against Central American opposition instead of going to Honiara early to prepare for the Oceania tournament was also interpreted as taking their Pacific neighbours too lightly - something that was not lost on him.

"There are no easy games in international football (and) we've proved that in recent years and also had a timely reminder of it in Honiara," Herbert said recently.

"We need to be ruthless at home and clinical away during this campaign if we are serious about reaching a consecutive World Cup.

"A winning start to the campaign is vital as we don't want to open the door for anyone else to build momentum."

Herbert has named a virtually full-strength squad for their first two games, recalling inspirational captain Ryan Nelsen of English Premier League side Queens Park Rangers.

West Ham United's Winston Reid, who scored in his side's 3-0 win over Fulham in the Premier League at the weekend, has also returned to the side and will link with Nelsen and Tommy Smith, who captained the side in June, to shore up the defence that leaked too many goals at the Oceania Cup.

"We put in a great performance against them (New Zealand) at the Nations Cup and that was a big achievement but we are still the underdogs," New Caledonia coach Alain Moizan said in a statement.

"The players are all very focused on the qualifiers and know how important these matches are."

The final qualifying round consists of a single pool of four teams, all playing each other home and away, with the winner advancing to face the fourth-placed team from the Central and North American confederation (CONCACAF) in a two-legged playoff for a spot in Brazil.

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Tahiti, who won the Nations Cup with a 1-0 victory over New Caledonia, and the Solomon Islands also play on Friday in Honiara.

"After our success at the Nations Cup, all the teams are waiting for us and want to beat us," Tahiti captain Nicholas Vallar told the Oceania Confederation website (

"We will do our best to start with two good results because that will determine much of our prospects for the rest of the competition.

"It will be hard but we have to put everything into our attempts to qualify."

- Reuters

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