New Zealand coach wants All Whites in Asia
20 November 2013, 19:08
Wellington - Outgoing New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert called for the All Whites to join the Asian Football Confederation on Wednesday, saying their development was being stunted by poor quality opposition in Oceania.
Herbert, who confirmed after a World Cup qualification loss to Mexico that he was standing down after eight years in charge, said New Zealand should follow Australian football, which switched from Oceania to Asia in 2006.
He offered similar reasons to those cited by Socceroos management when they made the move -- pointing to the lack of any serious challenge from Oceania teams, which comprise mostly of small Pacific island states.
Speaking after New Zealand went down 9-3 on aggregate to Mexico in the two-legged qualification tie, Herbert said All Whites players needed meaningful opposition if they were to develop and reach the World Cup.
"Geographically, we're hampered... If you went into a group of 10 meaningful international fixtures (they) are going to be incredibly testing.
"New Zealand needs these challenges, these players need challenges."
He said Australia's youth teams had found the transition to Asia difficult at times but it would help them improve over the long-term.
"Internationally, it will only stand them in good stead and why wouldn't we want that," he said.
Oceania is the weakest of the six FIFA confederations and does not have an automatic berth at the 2014 World Cup.
Instead, top qualifier New Zealand faced a two-leg play-off against the fourth-placed Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) side, in this case Mexico.
The Asia confederation gets four direct World Cup berth, with a fifth team receiving a chance to qualify through a play-off against a South American team.
The weakness of some Oceania nations has resulted a string of lop-sided results, most notably when Australia defeated American Samoa 31-0 in 2001, a record score in international football.
Herbert said he was satisfied with his tenure at the All Whites, the highlight of which was qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.
The New Zealanders were undefeated in the group stages of the tournament in South Africa, even managing a draw with the then-defending champions Italy before bowing out.
"I go out with my head held high and very, very proud actually," Herbert said.