New Zealand and Tahiti meet again in a World Cup qualifying match for the first time in almost ten years. On that occasion, the All Whites beat the reigning continental champions 3-0. Alvin Tehau, Chris Wood, Teaonui Tehau and Tommy Smith are the only remnants of that game.
The All Whites are on a high after winning all their group stage matches. With almost all players playing in Europe in the squad, the Kiwis are the favorites to go through to the final and win the tournament. Chris Wood, who recently became the national team’s all-time leading scorer, is in excellent form after scoring twice against New Caledonia.
Winston Reid, who had a rest against the Cagous, is expected to return to the starting eleven for this clash. It is likely that Bill Tuiloma, Joe Bell and Liberato Cacace, who arrived on Wednesday, will also start the match.
The bad news is that All Whites head coach Danny Hay no longer has any A-League players, as they have returned to their clubs. The only exception is Tim Payne, who also arrived in Doha on Wednesday.
Tahiti will try to surprise the world again, just like in 2012. To do so, they will have to play a perfect game and be totally focused during the ninety minutes. Free kicks and corners seem to be Samuel Garcia’s biggest weapon in attack. In defense, the attention should be the same, since New Zealand knows how to leave Chris Wood in good situations in those plays.
Using physical play could be one of Tahiti’s assets – and also exploiting the spaces that will be left by New Zealand’s fullbacks – Tahiti’s tactical and mental game has to be perfect and Samuel Garcia seems to be the man to make it happen. Players like Alvin Tehau, Heimano Bourebare, Roonui Tehau, Li Fung Kuee and Teaonui Tehau have to be on a perfect day.
The match will be held this Sunday at the Al-Arabi Stadium and is scheduled to start at 20:30 local time. As with all the other matches in the tournament, this one will also be broadcast on Eleven Sports.