WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand coach Anthony Hudson is looking to confound the form book at the Confederations Cup as he continues his drive to get his side back to Russia for next year’s World Cup finals.
The All Whites have never won a game at a senior FIFA men’s tournament, their best efforts a single draw against Iraq at the 2009 Confederations Cup and three more at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Hudson is determined the Oceania champions will not go to Russia to make up the numbers, however, as he continues to try and raise the expectations of soccer fans in a country where rugby rules the roost.
“We are not going to Russia to take part, we are going there to achieve something significant,” the Englishman said ahead of the opening match against hosts Russia on June 17.
“We are focused on the task at hand, we are not going to get carried away with who we are playing, we know they are top teams but we are a strong team and we are going there focused on ourselves and the task at hand.”
The task at hand also involves matches against Mexico, who routed New Zealand 9-3 on aggregate in the intercontinental playoff for the 2016 World Cup finals, and then European champions Portugal.
They will be without regular captain Winston Reid, who battled a knee injury through the last weeks of the English Premier League season with West Ham United.
Leeds striker Chris Wood, who scored 27 goals to top the English Championship last season, will instead captain a young side that Hudson has been building since his appointment in 2014.
The then 33-year-old initially dumped a number of senior internationals to give some of the younger players an opportunity to press their credentials.
His planning, however, was upset when Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) officials ruled South African-born defender Deklan Wynn was ineligible for the under-23 side just before the final of the qualifying tournament for the 2016 Olympics.
That led to New Zealand’s disqualification and Hudson has since been further frustrated at the lack of internationals New Zealand Football have been able to organise, with the side playing just three games in 2015.
Their build-up this year has also been less than ideal with just two 2-0 victories over Fiji in OFC qualifying matches in March, even if that was enough to advance to the final round of Oceania qualifying against the Solomon Islands.
If they get through that, a playoff against the fifth best side from the South American qualifying group awaits.
This year they have also had a 1-0 loss to Northern Ireland, a 5-2 victory over a local club side in Dublin and then a 1-0 loss to Belarus shortly before arriving in Russia.
Hudson, though, was still exuding the sort of confidence his midfielder father Alan displayed in the colours of Arsenal, Stoke City, Chelsea and England in the 1970s.
“Our preparation has been good,” he said. “We know what we are trying to achieve and we are all excited about this tournament.”
Editing by Nick Mulvenney