All Whites lose on penalties to Tunisia

Forty five minutes of some of New Zealand’s best men’s football in some time was not enough to end their goal hoodoo in Cairo.

The All Whites have been beaten 4-2 on penalties by Tunisia after the match ended goalless after 90 minutes, despite a number of first half chances and a missed penalty.

Much like the previous match against Egypt the New Zealand side showed that they can compete with teams placed far above them in the Fifa rankings.

Also like the Egypt match, they failed to convert dominance in passages and ended up ruing missed opportunities.

A saved penalty struck by Sarpreet Singh and another fine save by the Tunisian keeper kept the Africans in it and ended up being the difference as the All Whites again couldn’t capitalise on periods of control.

The All Whites started strongest and had the ball in the back of the net after eight in half minutes. Captain Liberto Cacace’s long range effort stung the gloves of Tunisian goalkeeper Ben Said and was then collected by Michael Boxall who laid of for striker Kosta Barbarouses to tap home. Barbarouses was judged offside and the deadlock remained.

Another eight minutes passed and New Zealand would have put the ball in again but not for a heroic save from Said. Callum McCowatt’s corner whistled in and was met my Tommy Smith’s head, the ball looked destined for the top corner until Said palmed it into the crossbar and it was cleared to safety.

By midway in the first half the All Whites had assumed control of the match. They pressed well and managed to win possession back high up in the attacking third, disrupting the short passing game that Tunisia were trying to employ.

It was on the stroke of 30 minutes that Matthew Garbett slid a ball into Barbarouses on the right hand side of the penalty area, the forward went to cut back inside and was caught by a trailing leg from the Tunisian defender.

The referee waved play on initially, but VAR intervened and replays showed it was a clear penalty which was then awarded.

Up stepped Sarpreet Singh to take, looking for just his second senior international goal. His shot was well struck but keeper Ben Said had guessed to dive to his left correctly and got a strong hand to deflect the ball away.

It remained 0-0 and on 39 minutes the referee was again blowing for a penalty for a foul on Barbarouses. This time VAR intervened not to confirm the penalty but to take it away from the All Whites - the through ball to Barbarouses had come into contact with his arm in an unnatural position.

It was another strong showing from the New Zealand side against a well favoured opposition but again perhaps the presence of injured captain Chris Wood was felt as they lacked a clinical edge.

Tunisia must have known they were very fortunate to head into the break with scores tied and coach Jalel Kadri seemed to have given them some inspiration.

The Carthage Eagles started far better in the second 45 minutes, much more clinical in their passing and with urgency to each 50/50 ball.

The All Whites by comparison seemed to be feeling the effects of their frantic first half and tired legs began to crop up across the park as the game began to open up with more end-to-end play than had been seen in the first stanza.

Still, the best chance of the half fell to the New Zealanders in the 63rd minute as Singh lifted a delightful ball over the Tunisian defence into the area for Garbett to run onto. Garbett could only get an outstretched foot to it and while he forced an outstretched leg from the goalkeeper, there wasn’t enough venom on the strike to cause a serious problem.

As the minutes ticked into stoppage time Tunisia made the bold call to substitute goalkeeper Ben Said and replace him with a fresh set of gloves in Dahmen ahead of the impending penalty shootout.

In the end, who was in net for Tunisia mattered little as New Zealand substitutes Ben Waine and Elijah Just pushed penalties wide while the Africans scored all four - winning 4-2 on penalties to take the bronze medal.

All Whites 0

Tunisia 0

(Penalties 4-2 to Tunisia)