New Zealand will be taking on Japan in a friendly match at Tokyo tonight. Ahead of the match, there is uncertainty surrounding the future of manager Neil Emblen, as he has been appointed only for this match. He has been the assistant manager of former coach Ricki Herbert for the last three years during which time the national team achieved immense success. Hence, there is pressure on Emblen to at least preserve this status when New Zealand take on one of the World Cup qualified teams – Japan – in a friendly match.
Emblen has named a youthful looking squad for this encounter with a number of players around the ages of 19 and 20. Ryan Thomas and Tyler Boyd are one of the high-profile inclusions under the decision by the manager to introduce new players to the national team squad. However, Emblen is aware that he will be able to retain his job only with a good performance against Japan. The team has been on a poor run of form in the last five matches. Since they have failed to qualify for the World Cup 2014, it is imperative that the nation are in the best of shape prior to the start of qualification for the next World Cup, which is expected to take place in Russia.
“We’ll be certainly looking to show a brave possession-based brand of football. It’s not like we’re bringing in players that don’t deserve to be involved, but yes some of the older guys have now been overlooked for this game, a couple of players unavailable,” said Emblen regarding the upcoming match against Japan. Senior players like Marco Rojas, Tommy Smith, and Winston Reid are unavailable for this match due to several reasons. Smith, for example, has chosen to remain with Ipswich Town for this international break.
New Zealand goalkeeper Glen Moss has stated that he will be extremely happy to captain the team when they take on Japan next month. This will be the first match for new New Zealand manager Neil Emblen, who was appointed on an interim basis recently. He takes over from Ricki Herbert and it will be a huge task to overcome the achievements of the former coach. Herbert managed to lead New Zealand to their first appearance in a World Cup in the 2010 edition. The team did exceedingly well during this tournament, but have suffered since then.
Herbert left the role as the New Zealand manager after the team failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Emblen has stated that the path to qualify for the next edition, which will take place in Russia, begins with this match. However, he will be without important players like Tommy Smith and Winston Reid. In their absence, Moss is expected to captain the team. The goalkeeper, who is regarded as the Peter Shilton of this region, says that it will be an honour to lead the team. Japan are currently 48th in the latest FIFA rankings, while New Zealand are 91st.
Despite this gap, the goalkeeper is confident that New Zealand will be able to make an impact in this match.
“It was a pretty surreal moment when Embers told me I’d be captain for the match. I was already excited about the game and looking forward to getting into camp and now I’ve been made captain, it’s raised that feeling up a notch. It’s a pretty proud moment for me. Embers and I have known each other for a while now and I’ve also been in the set-up for a while now too going back to 2005,” said the goalkeeper about the possibility of captaining the team.
New Zealand were the surprise team to be present at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but it looks like they will not make it to the 2014 edition. They suffered a 5-1 defeat against Mexico in the first leg of the intercontinental play-offs. This result means that New Zealand must score four goals away from home and should also not concede. It is looking highly unlikely after Mexico recently appointed a new manager. The World Cup 2014 qualification campaign, thus, is looking to come to an end for New Zealand.
This will also bring an end to Ricki Herbert’s time as the national team manager. It has been a great time for New Zealand with Herbert as the main man. He has been able to astonish the world with some incredible tactical displays, which helped New Zealand get a surprise result against Spain in the last World Cup. The defensive organisation of New Zealand was highly praised, but it was not up to standard against Mexico. Herbert has been in charge of the national team since 2005, but it is now known that he will step down from his role after the second leg match.
“Ricki assumed control of the All Whites at a point of instability for our men’s national team. From the moment he stepped into the coaching role he began building and shaping a team which became one of the best sides we’ve ever had at a time when competition, in what is a truly global sport, has never been tougher. The impact Ricki has had on football in New Zealand is immense and it is testament to the fantastic job he has done,” said Hattum.
New Zealand’s FA chairman Frank van Hattum has confirmed that Herbert will not be forgotten for his exploits with the national team.
New Zealand came into the FIFA World Cup 2010 with an expectation that they would be the whipping boys, but they finished the tournament as the only team not to have suffered a defeat. Even the eventual champions Spain suffered a defeat over the course of the tournament. Much of the success was attributed to the three defenders at the back formation for New Zealand. National team coach Ricki Herbert, though, is willing to try out a few things before his team reaches the 2014 World Cup. New Zealand are extremely close to reaching the second consecutive World Cup.
The only have to negotiate a play-off match from a team in the CONCAF region and it is likely to be Mexico. Ahead of the match with Saudi Arabia in the OSN Cup, Herbert said that he wants to switch to a defensive four formation. This could see only Tommy Smith and Winston Reid as the centre backs, while Tony Lochhead will be playing at left back. It is expected that either Leo Bertos or Ben Sigmund will be picked to play in the right back position. Speaking ahead of this match, Herbert said that he wants New Zealand to be ready for any possible situation. He is willing to try out a few things in this match.
“We’re going to try a whole raft of things and see how it goes. Some might work, some might not. Siggy played at right back against China [last year] and he did a good job. Leo could play fullback but Tony will probably play left back, with Winston, Tommy and Glen Moss in goal. It’s going to be incredibly demanding. But it’s more about, are players comfortable in their roles, do we feel we’ve got the right sort of connections, the right sort of links?” said Herbert.
The former Wellington Phoenix goalie, Mark Paston, has announced his retirement from international football.
Paston had quit club football in March this year. At that time, he had said that he might continue playing international football. But, after assessing his condition in the last few months, he decided to quit football completely.
Talking to the reporters while announcing his retirement, Paston said, “I have enjoyed my time away from football in the last few months and I think this is the right time for me to hang the boots.”
“I am excited about my future life. I will be doing something new and I want to have my focus on that.”
“I want to thank my fans for giving me tremendous support over the years. I also want to wish my teammates best of luck for the remaining World Cup qualifying matches. We have a very good chance to make it to the World Cup finals for the second time in a row.”
Meanwhile, the manager of the New Zealand team Ricki Herbert has hailed Paston for being a great servant of New Zealand football.
Herbert said, “Mark was one of the most passionate footballers I have ever worked with. He was a manager’s delight.”
“His contribution in the 2010 World Cup campaign was immense. The saves that he had made in both the qualifying games against Bahrain were fantastic.”
“Obviously, losing him at this point of time is a big blow for us. He was one of the most experienced guys in the team and we needed him for the rest of our qualifying campaign. But, he thought that the time had come for him to move on and we should respect his decision.”
Paston made a total of 36 appearances for the New Zealand team.