New Zealand football coach Ricki Herbert said that the All Whites were in a buoyant mood ahead of the last of the two qualifying matches for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Wellington on Wednesday night.
Despite the All Whites 5-1 loss to Mexico at Estadio Azteca last week, Herbert said on Tuesday that players had been feeling positive since returning home.
“It would have been easy to come back here and feel depressed. But this group is solid. They have been very buoyant,” he said.
Herbert has not yet named the team who will face Mexico, but signalled he would take a more aggressive approach than that with which he approached the Mexico City leg.
“We’ll be very aggressive tomorrow night and if we come up short it won’t be for want of trying,” he said.
The normally taciturn Herbert said players were excited about the game.
“That is the beauty of it: the anticipation, the excitement, the belief, the uncertainty. And who knows what tomorrow night will bring, but the doom and gloom that some people have wanted to paint is not with us. We’ll be up for this,” he said.
Captain Tommy Smith said the team realised the importance of balancing an aggressive stance with a solid defence against Mexico.
“If we start conceding goals again it becomes almost impossible, so we have to keep it tight first and foremost, but then be positive when we have the ball, that is what we were guilty of in Mexico, we just gave the ball back to them far too easily, so we are going to put a lot of emphasis on keeping the ball and trying to build attacks rather than forcing things,” Smith said.
Herbert, who has been enduring calls for his resignation after the Mexico hiding, said he hadn’t felt any more pressure in the last week than he had in the previous eight years of coaching the All Whites.
“I probably thought going into the home tie against Bahrain (when New Zealand qualified for the 2010 World Cup) there was a strong degree of pressure given ... the potential of going back to a World Cup after 28 years, so I am going to enjoy tomorrow night,” he said.
“Let’s hope it is not another 28 years.”