ZB

All Whites frustrated in World Cup playoff dress-rehearsal

Author
Michael Burgess, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 10 Jun 2022, 9:10am
Kosta Barbarouses rues a missed scoring chance against Oman. Photo / Photosport
Kosta Barbarouses rues a missed scoring chance against Oman. Photo / Photosport

All Whites frustrated in World Cup playoff dress-rehearsal

Author
Michael Burgess, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 10 Jun 2022, 9:10am

By Michael Burgess in Doha

If the old adage about poor dress rehearsals rings true, then the signs might be good for the blockbuster match against Costa Rica next week.

In their final preparation match against Oman on Thursday, the All Whites ground out a frustrating 0-0 draw at Education City Stadium.

The New Zealand side were solid, though lacking the sizzle we've seen in previous matches. They had the better of the match, but couldn't find the breakthrough, and Oman improved as the match wore on.

Goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic gave coach Danny Hay plenty to ponder with some outstanding stops, particularly in the second half. Michael Boxall was effective in the centre of defence, while Marko Stamenic had an energetic display in midfield and Ben Waine worked tirelessly up front.

But overall they lacked tempo and rhythm. There were moments – and some decent chances – but the passing wasn't swift enough, with Oman doing well to close down the spaces, and possession was turned over too easily.

It was also difficult for the players; playing a full international against the world No 75 but knowing the potentially the biggest game of your life is only a few days away.

Joey Champness had the most clear-cut chance, with the best of the other opportunities falling to Ben Waine and Marco Rojas.

Played behind closed doors, this will always be known as the match that no one saw.

It was a surreal setting, inside one of the flagship World Cup venues, the Education City Stadium. New Zealand Football would have been happier to stage the game inside a tournament training venue – which are also air conditioned – but they are currently undergoing maintenance ahead of the Cup.

Despite the absence of a crowd, there were no corners cut by the local organisers, with around 40 security staff stationed at various points, while eight other workers materialised to repair the divots on the immaculate turf after the warm ups.

Hay made nine changes to the XI that started against Peru, with only Bill Tuiloma and Stamenic retained. Dane Ingham, Boxall and Francis De Vries formed the rest of the back four, with Callum McCowatt and Eli Just the attacking midfielders. Ben Waine led the line, flanked by Kosta Barbarouses and Marco Rojas.

Though never completely fluent, New Zealand had the better of the first half. Waine flicked just wide of the far post, after good work from De Vries and Rojas, before Stamenic forced a good save from edge of the area.

Waine and Rojas had the other standout chances and De Vries got forward well to provide opportunities.

Marinovic was relatively comfortable in the first half, though was thankful for a timely Ingham intervention to cut out a dangerous cross and Boxall needed all of his pace to thwart a swift Oman counter attack.

Tommy Smith replaced Tuiloma at halftime – inheriting the captain's armband, as Hay asked for more urgency and intensity from his side.

There was some obvious frustration with some of the refereeing calls, which veered on the lenient side, with McCowatt copping some punishment.

Barbarouses went close in the 51st minute – with his chip floating just over – before Oman stepped through the gears. They forced a couple of brilliant saves from Marinovic in the space of two minutes, as the keeper dived to his left to palm away a shot bound for the far corner, then showed sharp reaction times with a point blank save from close range.

Hay rolled more substitutions after an hour, with Joey Champness (Barbarouses), Logan Rogerson (Rojas), Clayton Lewis (Callum McCowatt) and Tim Payne (Ingham) introduced.

Champness eschewed a great chance in the 71st minute, directing his header straight at the keeper after being picked out by a free kick, before Marinovic was on guard with another save four minutes later.

Wood came on with 12 minutes to play for Waine, before Lewis went close with a deflected shot.

But the All Whites looked vulnerable to the counter, as they got stretched, with Oman finding space down both flanks. Some Champness magic in the box almost produced something – after Wood had held up well, but that was the final noticeable opportunity.