If Fiji are to take anything from today’s game against the All Whites, they will probably have to do something no other Pacific Island team has managed – score a goal from open play against a New Zealand side coached by Anthony Hudson.

As well as taking the All Whites through their current quest to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, Hudson led the U-23 national team in its qualifying bid for the Rio Olympic Games and has put together a proud record against Oceania opposition.

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In World Cup and Olympic qualifying, the New Zealand teams coached by Hudson are yet to be beaten on the field – the only reversal being an overturned result against Vanuatu in the semi-finals of Olympic qualifying – and have a nearly unblemished defensive record.

In 11 matches against fellow Oceania countries, Hudson’s teams have won all 11, scored 22 goals and conceded just one – a penalty slotted by Roy Krishna for Fiji in the opening match of the 2016 OFC Nations Cup.

The record against all other nations is just as impressive with the 15 All Whites and U-23 games played since a 1-0 loss to Korea Republic resulting in 12 victories, two draws and only one defeat, 2-1 at the hands of classy Mexico on a two-match USA tour last October. In that time, 26 goals have been scored and just five conceded.

Even more impressively, only one of those games has been played on home soil, indicating the strength of character within the All Whites camp.

“I think it shows we have a consistent way of working and a team where we can come away to these environments and have a pretty high threshold for adversity,” Hudson says from Lautoka, where he has been putting the finishing touches on the team’s preparations to meet Fiji this afternoon.

“We’re used to these conditions, this environment, the heat and all that. We did it in Papua New Guinea a couple of years ago and again last year. This is something that we now thrive on and we’re a team that does well under pressure.”

That said, Hudson is full of respect for Fiji and is expecting a tough battle.

“We know they’re a strong team and are dangerous at home,” he says.

“We would love a big crowd here and a good atmosphere. These occasions are tricky because there’s a lot on the line for both teams.”

 

 In the injury-enforced absence of regular skipper Winston Reid, on-form Leeds United striker Chris Wood – who has just been named in the English Championship Team of the Season – will take the captain’s armband and agrees Fiji will make life difficult for the All Whites.

“We know them, we’ve played against them many times before and they have some great players who will cause us problems,” he says.

“But it’s not about what they do, it’s about what we do and we need to implement our game plan – that’s how we’re going to win this. Everybody is confident and we know that if we do everything right then we’ll come out with a positive result.”

The match takes place on Saturday 25 March from 1pm (2pm NZT) at Churchill Park in Lautoka with live coverage on SKY Sport.

Match Details

Fiji vs New Zealand
OFC Stage 3 Qualifiers for 2018 FIFA World Cup
Churchill Park, Lautoka
Kick-off: 1pm (2pm NZT)
Live on SKY Sport

New Zealand (from): 1. Stefan Marinovic (GK), 3. Deklan Wynne, 4. Themi Tzimopoulos, 5. Michael Boxall, 6. Bill Tuiloma, 7. Dane Ingham, 8. Michael McGlinchey, 9. Chris Wood (c), 10. Shane Smeltz, 11. Marco Rojas, 12. Glen Moss (GK), 13. Alex Rufer, 14. Ryan Thomas, 15. Clayton Lewis, 16. Sam Brotherton, 17. Thomas Doyle, 18. Kip Colvey, 19. Moses Dyer, 20. Tommy Smith, 21. Jai Ingham, 22. Andrew Durante, 23. Tamati Williams (GK)
Coach: Anthony Hudson

-NZFootball

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