RUSTENBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – The All Whites’ quest for their first ever point at a FIFA Confederations Cup takes on added importance against South Africa in Rustenburg on Thursday morning (NZT).
A draw against the tournament hosts – who played out a lacklustre stalemate against Asian champions Iraq in their opening match – would not only make history for Ricki Herbert’s men, it would set them up for an even bigger prize – a place in the semi finals.
“If we get a result against South Africa then it’s going to go down to the last game irrespective of whether we win or draw the game, so [still having a chance to qualify in the last game] will be a bit of history in itself,” Herbert said.
With tournament favourites Spain just two games shy of a world record unbeaten streak and likely to continue their destructive form against Iraq and South Africa, All Whites coach Ricki Herbert knows the pressure is on the hosts to pick up full points when they can.
“They’ll be desperate to win after an unexpected draw against Iraq.”
“The longer the game goes at 0-0, the more the pressure builds. I think you saw that the other night when they changed shape and went with three at the back, pushed fullbacks forward, with the crowd wanting [Everton playmaker] Steven Pienaar on the pitch. Against New Zealand that pressure will create mayhem for them.
The All Whites picked themselves up after Sunday morning’s 0-5 defeat to European champions Spain with one session – split between recovery for some, training for others – on Monday, and face two sessions on Tuesday before playing on Wednesday night (local time) in front of an expectant Rustenburg crowd.
Herbert is considering changes to his starting 11 but is keeping mum on his plans while he assesses all the candidates at training, with the only injury concern being fullback Aaron Scott who picked up a slight knock on Monday.
Meanwhile South African captain Aaron Makoena sat out Bafana Bafana's first training since moving base from Johannesburg to Rustenburg.
The versatile midfielder-cum-defender, signed recently by Portsmouth from Blackburn Rovers, is expected to start a game the hosts must win to stay in the hunt for a semi final berth.
FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009
New Zealand v South Africa
Royal Bafokeng Stadium
Wednesday 17 June 8.30pm (June 18, 6.30am NZT)
Live on Sky Sport 1 from 6am
New Zealand (from): 1-Mark PASTON (GK), 2-Aaron SCOTT, 3-Tony LOCHHEAD, 4-Duncan OUGHTON, 5-Ben SIGMUND, 6-Ivan VICELICH, 7-Simon ELLIOTT, 8-Tim BROWN (Captain), 9-Shane SMELTZ, 10-Chris KILLEN, 11-Leo BERTOS, 12-Glen MOSS (GK), 13-Andy BARRON, 14-Jeremy CHRISTIE, 15-Jeremy BROCKIE, 16-Chris JAMES, 17-David MULLIGAN, 18-Andrew BOYENS, 19-Steven OLD, 20-Chris WOOD, 21-Kris BRIGHT, 22-Jarrod SMITH, 23-James BANNATYNE (GK).
Coach: Ricki HERBERT
South Africa (from): 1-Rowen FERNANDEZ (GK), 2-Siboniso GAXA, 3-Tsepo MASILELA, 4-Aaron MOKOENA (Captain), 5-Benson MHLONGO, 6-MacBeth SIBAYA, 7-Lance DAVIDS, 8-Siphiwe TSHABALALA, 9-Katlego MPHELA, 10-Steven PIENAAR, 11-Elrio VAN HEERDEN, 12-Teko MODISE, 13-Kagisho DIKGACOI, 14-Matthew BOOTH,15-Innocent MDLEDLE, 16-Itumeleng KHUNE (GK), 17-Bernard PARKER, 18-Thembinkosi FANTENI, 19-Bryce MOON, 20-Bongani KHUMALO, 21-Katlego MASHEGO, 22-Brian BALOYI (GK), 23-Morgan GOULD.
Coach: Joel SANTANA