2013 review: Football Ferns the only bright spot

13:16, Dec 26 2013
Ricki Herbert
OFF HE GOES: Ricki Herbert says goodbye to the All Whites fans at the end of his last game in charge of New Zealand.

A combination of poor preparation and sheer bad luck meant the All Whites' World Cup aspirations unravelled in spectacular fashion in 2013.

When traditional world powerhouse Mexico were confirmed as the opponent, New Zealand's hopes of qualifying for unprecedented back-to-back World Cups took an immediate nose dive.

But while there was nothing New Zealand Football could do about the draw, they failed in their duty to at least give their players an opportunity to give it a decent shake.

The build-up fixtures to November's Mexico games were inexcusably poor, with a schedule of second-rate club and international teams cobbled together at the last minute.

Frustration understandably began to build within the playing ranks, while captain Winston Reid's freak training injury provided the final nail in the coffin.

The All Whites were slaughtered 5-1 at Estadio Azteca, as coach Ricki Herbert's park-the-bus tactics backfired badly.


An emotional Herbert lashed out afterwards, indicating he would try to fight for his job while simultaneously complaining he had not been given enough credit for the unbeaten 2010 World Cup campaign.

It was unfortunate and meant the build-up to the return leg in Wellington focused on the coach and not the players.

Herbert eventually fell on his sword on match eve, ending an eight-year reign which included some historic highs (2010) and lamentable lows (the 2012 Oceania Nations Cup flop in Honiara).

Herbert will be remembered as the All Whites' most successful coach, but he clung on too long.

The All Whites lost the return leg 4-2 at Westpac Stadium.

They will return to action in March against Japan under a new coach, who, it is hoped, will build a game plan around the youth and skill of players like Marco Rojas, Kosta Barbarouses, Bill Tuiloma and Storm Roux.

The news was much brighter for New Zealand's women's team in 2013.

The Football Ferns enjoyed probably their best ever year, winning five games and drawing and losing three.

But it was the calibre of their opposition that made those results so impressive.

The Tony Readings-coached side are now ranked a lofty 16th in the world after winning their first international tournament outside Oceania in 38 years.

Victory at the Valais Cup, in Switzerland, included the scalps of highly ranked Brazil and China, while the Ferns also drew with world champions Japan and No 1 ranked USA.

Their success has ensured continued funding from High Performance Sport New Zealand as they build towards the 2015 World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Rio.

New Zealand was unable to make an impact in a disappointing year at age-group level.

The under-17 men's team conceded 11 goals and failed to score one in losses to Uruguay, Italy and the Ivory Coast at their World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.

The under-20 men's side also lost all three of their pool games at their World Cup in Turkey.

Things were also dire for New Zealand's only professional club team, the Wellington Phoenix.

Herbert, who had coached the club since their inception in 2007, resigned as the Phoenix plummeted towards their second wooden spoon in the 2012-13 season.

One bright spot from that campaign was the form of Jeremy Brockie, who scored 16 goals to finish second in the A-League golden boot race.

Brockie's hot form earned him a loan stint in the MLS with the Ryan Nelsen-coached Toronto FC. Former All Whites captain Nelsen retired from an illustrious playing career in January to coach.

The Phoenix added two-time championship coach Ernie Merrick, and Costa Rican internationals Carlos Hernandez and Kenny Cunningham, but they were unable to spark a turnaround in the early part of the 2013-14 season.

Waitakere United won its fourth straight men's national league title, while Oceania club champions Auckland City again represented New Zealand at the Club World Cup.

The Dominion Post