Vaughan Coveny waited two years to become New Zealand’s leading all-time goal scorer but needed just another 18 minutes to seal the historic upset of Georgia in Germany on Sunday (NZT).
lThe South Melbourne striker enjoyed a “Boy’s Own Annual” night in Altenkirchen with a double that saw Ricki Herbert’s 118th-ranked All Whites outclass 101-rated Georgia 3-1 for New Zealand’s first win on European soil.
“This is a huge result for our game and our country and surely goes a long way to putting the game back on the map,” Coveny explained.
Coveny surpassed the late Petone striker Jock Newall as New Zealand’s leading scorer with his 29th goal after 35 minutes in Altenkirchen, a village of 7000 people, 70km south-east of Cologne.
The 34-year-old marksman, playing in his 73rd international, nut-megged Georgian goalkeeper George Lomaia from an acute angle on the left after being put into space by standout central defender Steven Old.
Hibernian striker Chris Killen doubled New Zealand’s lead two minutes later when he lobbed the advancing Lomaia from the top of the box after Georgia captain and AC Milan central defender Kakha Kaladze mis-judged a high kick from Kiwi keeper Glen Moss.
New Zealand were punished four minutes from halftime when AZ Alkmar striker Shota Arveladze rounded Moss to make it 2-1 after a clever ball from Kaladze.
But Coveny, whose last goal for New Zealand came in the 2-0 World Cup defeat of Fiji in 2004, nodded home the clincher from an inch-perfect David Mulligan cross in the 53rd minute.
Georgia pressed for a way back into the match on a muddy Glocken Spitze Stadium but New Zealand, again organised in defense and creative going forward, did not repeat the mistakes that cost them in Wednesday’s 2-0 loss to Hungary in Budapest.
“I’ll never forget this night, it’s an absolutely special moment and a privilege to coach these players,” an emotional Herbert said afterwards.
“I’m so proud of them because at the end of the day they’re the ones that get you the result. To coach the first team to win on European soil is very special and it’s nice to do it with guys like [co-coaches] Brian Turner, Stu Jacobs and Clint Gosling who have all been All Whites and know what this means.
Sweet success!“We thought a draw on this tour would be good and a win exceptional and we’ve nailed that.”
Turner, capped 104 times by New Zealand, believes there are parallels between the current All Whites team and the squad that went on to represent New Zealand at the 1982 World Cup in Spain.
“That’s one of the truly special New Zealand performances…to see they way this team is developing is a huge thrill,” Turner said.
“There are a lot of similarities with ’82. We had a hard core group of experienced players then and some talented youngsters and it’s the same now.
“The great thing is this wasn’t lucky, you could see this coming from the way we played against Hungary. We’re not a team that tries to nick a goal anymore or hopes for a 1-0 result. We’re going at teams and really expressing ourselves.
“This is a team with a huge amount of potential.”
Turner was “thrilled” for Herbert – a team-mate of his at the ’82 World Cup – as he had seen the hard work Herbert had put into transforming the team’s culture and tactical approach.
“What we’ve done right from when Ricki took over was make sure we’re difficult to beat. We’re now moving into the development of our attacking game where we’re giving players the licence to get forward and express themselves.
“We’ve got to kick on now and get a good result against Estonia[June 1 NZT] and Brazil[June 5 NZT].”
New Zealand Soccer chief executive Graham Seatter, kept abreast of developments back in Auckland via text messages, described the All Whites victory as “huge” for the sport.
“This is a real bit of history and shows we’re progressing in the right direction. This is a team that drew with Ukraine and Ukraine are off to the World Cup, it’s fantastic,” Seatter said.
Herbert agreed that the game was “on a roll” on the back of the All Whites.
“We’ve put some really big ticks alongside a lot of players and where we are going as a sport. But while it’s about the 30 people here it’s also about a group of people back at [NZ Football's] office in Albany who are making a real difference and making this possible.”
New Zealand changed their formation in Atlenkirchen and it paid dividends at both ends of the pitch. Up front Leo Bertos was inspirational in the “hole” behind Coveny and Killen who form easily the most lethal All Whites strike partnership since the turn of the century.
Ball-winners Jeremy Christie and David Mulligan were work-horses in the boggy midfield ahead of Ivan Vicelich whose distribution as New Zealand’s defensive outlet was again a feature.
At the back Old recovered from his forgettable night in Budapest with arguably his best performance for the All Whites while captain Danny Hay was a colossus alongside the 20-year-old, winning everything in the air, directing play verbally as well as producing several critical tackles.
May 27, 2006
New Zealand 3 (Vaughan Coveny 35, 53; Chris Killen 37) Georgia 1 (Shota Arveladze 41). Halftime: 2-1.
New Zealand: Glen Moss, Noah Hickey, Danny Hay (captain), Steven Old, Kris Bouckenooghe, Ivan Vicelich, David Mulligan (Adrian Webster 75), Jeremy Christie, Leo Bertos, Chris Killen (Raf De Gregorio 90+), Vaughan Coveny (Jarrod Smith 62).
NZ: Danny Hay 66.
New Zealand in Europe:
1964 v England Amateurs at Dulwich - Lost 1-4
1969 v Israelat Tel Aviv - Lost 0-4
1969 v Israel at Tel Aviv - Lost 0-2
1982 v Scotland at Malaga – Lost 2-5
1982 v USSR at Malaga Lost 0-3
1982 v Brazil at Seville Lost 0-4
1984 v England B at Nottingham- Lost 0-2
1985 v Israel at Tel Aviv - Lost 0-3
1989 v Israel at Tel Aviv - Lost 0-1
2002 v Estonia at Tallinn - Lost 2-3
2002 v Poland at Ostrowiec - Lost 0-2
2003 v Scotland at Edinburgh - Drew 1-1
2003 v France at Paris - Lost 0-5
2003 v Japan at Paris - Lost 0–3
2003 v Colombia at Lyon Lost 1-3
2005 v Australia at London - Lost 0-1