New Zealand coach Mick Waitt was in defiant mood ahead of his team’s second match of the FIFA Confederations Cup against Colombia on Friday. Despite the All Whites’ comprehensive 3-0 defeat to Japan in the opening match of the tournament, the Englishman promised his side would be more positive and attack from the start in Lyon.
“A lot of people back in New Zealand asked us if we were overawed. But nine of the starting eleven played in Mexico (Confederations Cup) in 99 so you wouldn’t expect them to be fazed,” he said, speaking on the high-speed train from Paris to Lyon . “We just went out there thinking we didn’t want to make mistakes. We played very conservatively, played in the wrong areas of the pitch and gave the ball away very cheaply.”
Waitt held a private meeting with his coaching team to analyse the Japan performance and came out of it in a more optimistic frame of mind.
“We have to raise the spirit of the team. The boys were pretty down after the game. I think the motivation will be the fact that we didn’t perform,” he said. “We have to put some fresh legs out there and show that we are capable of something. But having watched the second half of the France-Colombia game, we know that won’t be easy. They are a very good team.”
Despite coming up against a team that had made it past the group stage at the last FIFA World Cup, New Zealand fully expected to get a result out of the match and there was bitter disappointment over the manner of their display against the Asian champions.
“There are no excuses. We had been together for three weeks and have had a decent build up with matches against Scotland (1-1) and the United States (1-2),” acknowledged Waitt, who was promoted to New Zealand coach before the Oceania Nations Cup tournament after serving as assistant coach. “But Saturday was the first time we had all 23 players of the squad together.”
Prior to the Scotland match, New Zealand had not played an international match for eight months.
“The Confederations Cup is a great opportunity for us to play matches against top opposition. We have to find a way to get more international games against high-quality opposition on a regular basis. Only that will help us to improve very quickly,” he said. “I would like to see my players competing in top leagues all over the world but that could be a problem in itself with New Zealand’s geographically location.
“We have one professional club in New Zealand and it plays in Australia. We’re trying to improve things in the national league but it will take time and money.”