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The Toe Poke
By ESPN Staff

NZ use Confed Cup as prep for World Cup play-off

The Confederations Cup will provide New Zealand with ideal preparation for their crucial World Cup qualifying playoff later in the year, according to coach Ricki Herbert.

The All Whites, who have qualified for two previous Confederation Cup tournaments, play European champions Spain, hosts South Africa and Asian champions Iraq at the eight-team tournament that begins on June 14.

The Oceania champions however, also have three warm-up matches against Tanzania, Botswana, and world champions Italy beforehand.

Two further internationals against Gulf opponents are scheduled for September before New Zealand play the fifth-ranked Asian side home and away to determine whether they will return to South Africa next year for the World Cup finals.

"The (Confederations Cup) tournament itself has its own demands and we need to deal with those," Herbert told Reuters in an interview before he and the locally-based players head to a training camp in Botswana on Wednesday.

"But I think as a country you can't lose sight of October-November either.

"Ideally we have a chance to have the group that we have worked hard for the last four years to get together ... to roll out on a consistent basis over a period of time.

"It has taken time but we haven't had a chance since 2005 to bring a squad together like this."

The All Whites have participated at the 1999 and 2003 Confederations Cup but have yet to claim a point from the tournament, having lost all six of their games.

Herbert admitted his side might struggle against Spain but could surprise the hosts or Iraq.

"It's going to be fantastic. We will give it heaps," Herbert added. "The stature of the opponents we have got is quite exceptional really.

"Can we win a game? Can we get a point?

"We will be setting some pretty strong internal goals but we are playing ... Spain and there is a reality of that.

"But South Africa and Iraq, I think we'll be rolling our sleeves up for those."

Herbert said it was also imperative that his squad began to produce more consistent performances instead of relying on emotion and pride alone.

"The thing with the All Whites is that (they are) the visibility of the nation on the world scene.

"We have small camps, some international activity, but we don't have continuity and the last one for me is the more important than the first two.

"In 2005 we played one game and that was a 'heart on the sleeve' performance," he said of the team's 1-0 loss to Australia before the Socceroos went to the last Confederations Cup in Germany.

"There were eight or nine senior team players I could not get to that fixture, but it provided an opportunity for other players and it put them under extreme pressure.

"They rallied and worked hard and it was a really dedicated performance to go down 1-0 in the 86th minute.

"But how many times can you expect them to do that? I'm not sure you can in international football."


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