- New Zealand fail to find net for third straight match
- All Whites determined to focus on positives
- "We're going to learn a lot," Kiwi coach Anthony Hudson
By Brendon Hanley with New Zealand
After a tough opening match that saw the Kiwis brushed aside 2-0 by the hosts, New Zealand coach Hudson and his troops were surprisingly positive in their assessment. But along with the encouraging takeaways, there were undoubtedly some not-so-positive aspects about the contest from a Kiwi perspective.
The OFC champions have now gone over 500 minutes of play in their FIFA Confederations Cup history without a goal. More immediately, they have now played three matches in the last two weeks without finding the net.
Worryingly, in those contests, they have not even created many dangerous moments for key striker Chris Wood. The Leeds United star nonetheless said after the match he didn’t think that much had changed, and that the team “created more chances [in the second half against Russia], and with any luck may have scored a couple.”
Russia might have found another handful of goals on Saturday evening. They had over 60 per cent of possession for most of the match and registered 17 attempts on goal and 12 corners. The inclusion of both attack-minded Kosta Barbarouses and Marco Rojas was an adventurous move by Hudson, but the lack of midfield weight meant that the Kiwi players in attack spent most of the match chasing after the ball.
That left the usually solid group of three central defenders struggling to cope with quick attacking runs. The hosts had little trouble dealing with New Zealand’s long balls into Wood, while Hudson called the Russians game plan “very very positive”.
New Zealand’s emphasis on physical conditioning paid dividends in the last 15 minutes though, and it was in those closing stages that they created most of their chances. It was then that rising young player Ryan Thomas finally found himself with the ball in better positions, and he impressed with their best chance of the match.
After the contest, the PEC Zwolle winger said if things had gone differently, the All Whites plan may have paid off. “Towards the end we should have used the space more when we saw that they were getting tired. We got into some dangerous spots, and we could have done better to convert."
Hudson kept his eyes looking forward, saying the team were determined to keep getting better, and he was happy with the second half. "I was pleased with the improvement and the spirit and how we got back in the game," he said. "There were parts of the game that were very promising and very pleasing for us, so we want to look at that and take it into the next game."
New Zealand will now try to regroup before taking on Mexico in Sochi on Wednesday.