New Zealand’s Road to Russia
New Zealand’s All Whites need play only 4 more games before finding out if dreams of Russia really do come true. This follows the team’s 2-0 victory over Fiji at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium.
The win over Fiji was no mean feat, as the Island side certainly weren’t pushovers, and the All Whites did not play their best game. If it wasn’t for Ryan Thomas, the game’s only goal-scorer, it is likely that the game would have ended in a dismal tie, if that.
How the Action Unfolded
The teams could not have asked for better weather conditions on the night of the game, and both got off to a promising start. The All Whites’ opening looked particularly promising.
Michael McGlinchey and Marco Rojas dominated midfield, and Tom Doyle and Dane Ingham brought their talents to the flanks. Despite the great positioning by talented players, the All Whites’ hopes of an early goal were dashed by the Fijians.
The Island side not only managed to deflect the ball, but also almost scored a goal of their own. However, Roy Krishna’s shot from right near the All Whites’ penalty area went awry, giving the New Zealanders a fright, but no reason to panic.
The All Whites fought back, but managed nothing more than a few misses until almost half an hour into the first half. 27 minutes after the first whistle blew, Thomas scored New Zealand’s first goal thanks to an excellent pass by Shane Smeltz, who clearly has at least one more World Cup in him.
The early stages of the second half were lacklustre until a cross from Doyle gave Thomas the opportunity to score his second goal with a header.
All Whites Unfocused
The game between New Zealand and Fiji had its highlights, but the All Whites could have done with more focus on the field. There were moments in which they seemed content to relinquish possession of the ball, and in which they would have benefitted from exercising a little more patience and discipline.
That said, the game Thomas played was definitely one of the highlights, while Lewis and Smeltz both made a significant contribution. It was a pity that Lewis left the field during the second half, as he certainly brought a special something to the game.
Teammates and fans were no doubt pleased to see Tommy Smith make his first start since 2014, although they were sure to have noticed the absence of Chris Wood. The player was slightly injured in the game on the weekend, and was sent home.
What Lies Ahead
The step towards the 2018 World Cup taken by the All Whites may be a small one, but it does put qualifying within reach. They will need to come out tops at September’s Oceania final, and then they need to face the South American team that places fifth in November.
Should they get that far, that game is the one that will determine whether they will play for the coveted cup in Russia next year.
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