New Zealand’s national senior team footballers were scheduled to arrive in Trinidad and Tobago last night, from Houston, USA, for tomorrow’s friendly international against T&T at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
The All Whites drew their final training fixture before tomorrow’s encounter, playing to a 0-0 draw with American MLS club Chivas USA on Saturday.
According to New Zealand press officer Seamus Marten, the visitors are eagerly anticipating the showdown with the Soca Warriors, and are also aware of the significance of the game following Akeem Adams’ heart attack.
“We’re all set for our first trip to Trinidad and Tobago and the match itself has a lot of significance, not just for us in preparing for the World Cup play-off but also for Trinidad and Tobago and Akeem Adams. We were very sorry to hear of his circumstances,” Marten said.
New Zealand head coach Ricki Herbert added: “We’ve got a lot of respect for Trinidad and Tobago, we saw them in Saudi Arabia last month and they’re a very good side. More importantly, it’s CONCACAF opposition on their home soil, and we’ll be able to see how we go travelling in a couple days before the match.”
The 0-0 draw with Chivas was witnessed by a huge Mexican contingent, and there have been requests for media accreditation from Mexican journalists for tomorrow’s game, which kicks off at 7.15 p.m.
Herbert was at the Azteca on Friday night to witness Mexico’s 2-1 victory over Panama.
“[Mexico] are obviously a quality side and you could argue, player for player, they are still the best team in CONCACAF despite their recent run,” Herbert told the Herald on Sunday. “We already knew how hard it was going to be, but coming here you can see they take their support to another level. The volume of people, not just inside the ground–there were thousands more outside and all around the stadium–was incredible.”
New Zealand, the Oceania World Cup qualifying winners, will play the fourth-placed CONCACAF team in a home-and-away play-off. The winners will qualify for the 2014 World Cup Finals, in Brazil.
The New Zealand national team home kit is: white jersey, white shorts, white socks. The away kit is: black jersey, black shorts, black socks.
They play in an all-white strip rather than the traditional New Zealand black due to a former FIFA regulation that reserved black for referees. The silver fern, a symbol of New Zealand, appears on the national team’s kit.
The T&T team will have their final training session at the Larry Gomes Stadium in Malabar this evening.
Before that, T&T head coach Stephen Hart will join Herbert for a press conference at the Trotter’s Sports Bar in Port of Spain at 12.30 this afternoon.
Hart described Saturday’s training session at Malabar as extremely intense as players tried to stake a claim for a spot in tomorrow’s starting eleven.
“The session was very competitive and it’s great for us. You can see the intensity and the willingness to work hard throughout which is what we want from the players. Despite this being a friendly, the players realise it’s an important preparation game for us because, again, we are building for the 2018 World Cup campaign,” Hart said.
Striker Willis Plaza, back home from a stint in Vietnam, is hoping to execute well again tomorrow, following his two lively performances against United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in Riyadh last month. Plaza scored with his first touch after coming off the bench against the UAE, helping T&T to recover from a 3-0 deficit before losing on penalties.
“It’s time again for us to show our business on the field. I believe this is a good team we have now. All the players are skillful, talented and working hard. I want to see us do well and I will try to do my part to help the team at every moment,” Plaza said.
“New Zealand, I think, will be a tough side because they want to win also, but we have to do it for our fans. I am sure they want to see us play good football and win the game on Tuesday.”
The T&T team trained yesterday at the Crawford Stadium.