The All Whites won their first game in two years, edging
Honduras 1-0 in Dallas today to complete a successful
two-match American tour.
Almost two years to the day of New Zealand's 1-0 win over
Serbia in a pre-World Cup friendly, the All Whites defeated
similarly favoured opponents thanks to a Shane Smeltz header
right on halftime.
The win follows Thursday's 2-2 draw with El Salvador in
Houston, giving the All Whites a huge boost ahead of next
month's Oceania Nations Cup.
That tournament in the Solomon Islands doubles as the first
stage of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup - a journey which,
all going well, will culminate in an inter-continental
play-off against the fourth-ranked Central American side next
Considering their success against Honduras (sixth in the
region) and the good showing against El Salvador (third), the
All Whites would hold no fear going into a two-legged tie
against similar opposition.
The All Whites' first win in 12 months came with a weakened
side, while also blooding some young talent, and would leave
coach Ricki Herbert feeling very positive heading into the
World Cup campaign.
It was a dour first half devoid of clear-cut chances, but
there were still encouraging signs for the All Whites (130th
in the world) against the higher-ranked Hondurans (62nd).
Aaron Clapham was busy in his first start for the national
side, and he and Michael McGlinchey ensured the team
continued to play the possession-based football so successful
against El Salvador.
Honduras were more reserved than their central American
neighbours, which left both sides probing rather than
puncturing the opposing defence.
But the game began to open up after a first 20 minutes
completely bereft of goal-scoring opportunities, and the All
Whites began to look threatening from the flanks. The final
ball was too often absent, though - until right on the stroke
Clapham cleverly found Jeremy Brockie - moved to the left
wing after Ian Hogg was forced from the field - in space out
wide, and the Wellington Phoenix recruit curled a perfect
cross with his bad foot to the edge of the six yard box.
There, Shane Smeltz had stolen into space between the
Honduras centre backs and he buried his header for his 18th
While it would be a stretch to say the All Whites deserved
their lead, it did reward some admirable patience with the
ball and resolute defending without it.
And they were nearly rewarded further shortly after halftime
when Chris Wood, on for Smeltz, showed great vision to find
Clapham on the edge of the area, but the Cantabrian scuffed
his volley just wide.
At that point, Honduras had been restricted to long-range
shooting but they opened up the All Whites' defence for the
first time on the hour, with the post coming to Mark Paston's
rescue after the keeper was beaten.
Despite the scare, New Zealand continued to attack and looked
a lot more threatening than before the break. Both Brockie
and Wood went close with a couple of driven shots, and Kosta
Barbarouses should have done better when he was put through
The Russian-based Barbarouses allowed the ball to become
trapped under his feet, and the All Whites' slim lead
remained. That nearly changed with 15 minutes left but
Paston's other post was called into action after a poor
defensive header from 17-year-old Cameron Howieson gave the
Hondurans a sight of goal.
Honduras continued to pile the pressure on a tiring All
Whites' defence, but they failed to find the equaliser in a
one-way final 10 minutes.