Good things, they say, come to those that wait. For New Zealand coach Anthony Hudson, the wait must have seemed interminable. But the pay-off, when it arrived, was richly rewarding.
That dividend came in the form of a victorious campaign at the OFC Nations Cup last month, as New Zealand regained their status as continental kings following an underwhelming semi-final exit in 2012. Aside from earning a ticket to the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017, the All Whites collected a remarkable 54-place rise on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking to 93. Aside from being the globe’s highest move for the month, it is New Zealand’s best position for three years.
Hudson was appointed in August 2014 in the wake of New Zealand’s failed tilt at 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ qualification, which ended with a hefty defeat against Mexico in the intercontinental play-off. The Kiwis, however, took to the field just six times over nearly two years in the lead-up to the recent Nations Cup. Despite the lack of preparation, New Zealand secured their fifth continental crown, also earning passage to the third stage of Russia 2018 qualifying in the process. Victory was secured in the form of a penalty shoot-out win over hosts Papa New Guinea following 120 tense scoreless minutes in the final, following on from four successive wins earlier in the tournament.
New Zealand’s defensive solidity, and team cohesion without the ball, were both prominent facets of their play in PNG. Indeed, the team have conceded just six goals in ten outings since Hudson’s opening 3-1 loss against Uzbekistan, a match which was played just weeks after the London-born coach assumed the reins.