New Zealand took the field last Tuesday – 16th June – against Costa Rica at the Al Rayyan Stadium in Doha, Qatar with the dream of going to the World Cup for the third time in their history – the second time in twelve years.
Considering Costa Rica’s aging squad that started poorly in the CONCACAF Nations League and New Zealand coming off the back of a sensational Olympic Games campaign and strong performances in friendly matches, the All Whites’ chances of qualifying for the World Cup were considerable.
In the 2nd minute New Zealand suffered a heavy blow, Bryan Oviedo beat the defense and found Jewison Bennette who crossed for Joel Campbell to beat Oli Sail with a left-footed shot to the left corner.
Having to chase the deficit, New Zealand began to pursue more offensive options. In the 10th minute came the first big chance for the Kiwis when Bill Tuiloma found Chris Wood in the area who headed Alex Greive‘s shot past Keylor Navas’ post.
In the 14th minute Joe Bell crossed to Chris Wood who deflected the ball and forced Keylor Navas to intervene for the first time in the match. On the rebound the Costa Rican defense cleared the ball away.
In the 38th minute New Zealand was still trying to break through the Costa Rican defense when Matt Garbett stole the ball from Oscar Duarte and crossed, the Costa Rican defense failed to clear and the ball fell to Chris Wood to tie the match. After the VAR was triggered the referee saw a foul by Garbett on Duarte and the New Zealand goal was disallowed as the All Whites went into the break at a disadvantage.
In the second half New Zealand again had possession of the ball and dominated the offensive actions of the match. Danny Hay introduced Kostas Barbarouses and Ben Waine on for Alex Greive and Matt Garbett. Things started to get more complicated when Barbarouses lost the ball and made a very hard tackle on Francisco Calvo – the referee at first gave a yellow card but was called to the video referee and withdrew the yellow card, expelling Kostas Barbarouses from the match – The All Whites would have to chase the loss within 24 minutes to go with a man down
In the 75th minute Clayton Lewis received the ball from Joe Bell on the edge of the area and after a beautiful shot forced Keylor Navas to save the ball for a corner. At the 83th minute Elijah Just found Chris Wood on a deep pass, the No. 9 hit it weakly and could not score.
New Zealand still tried crosses in the box until the end of the match but nothing of that was enough to break through the Costa Rican defense.
Now the New Zealand team is already back on the field on September 25 in the next FIFA window against Australia that eliminated Peru and will be in the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The match will take place at Eden Park in Auckland and will mark the return of the All Whites playing at home, something that had not happened since the intercontinental playoff against Peru in 2017.