OFC: All Whites skipper Rory Fallon said his side cannot wait to test themselves against the best teams in the world at the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2017.
New Zealand booked their place at one of the marquee events in world football when they defeated Papua New Guinea 4-2 on penalties in the OFC Nations Cup Final last weekend.
It secured the All Whites their fifth OFC Nations Cup, and first since 2008, and Fallon is looking forward to building toward the tournament in June next year where they will face some of the leading football nations in the world.
The FIFA Confederations Cup, which is held every four years, is contested by the holders of each of the six FIFA confederation championships (UEFA, CONMEBOL, CONCACAF, CAF, AFC, OFC), along with the FIFA World Cup holders Germany and the host nation Russia, to bring the number of teams up to eight.
“To win this [OFC Nations Cup] is well up there with everything I have done in my football career,” Fallon said.
“To get an international trophy with a New Zealand team is really difficult so we are going to savour this moment.
“I just can’t wait for Russia now.”
All Whites coach Anthony Hudson said the FIFA Confederations Cup will be a good benchmark to where they stand in world football and also a good preparation for their FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
“What this tournament next year does is gives us an opportunity to see these players and push them into significant games and a significant tournament that they deserve because we have some good players here.”
Hudson singled out defender Luke Adams and goal-keeper Stefan Marinovic as two players who have come of age in the OFC Nations Cup, but said there were a number of young players who showed they are up to the rigors of international football.
At the other end of the age spectrum, 34-year-old Fallon was humbled to lift the trophy on behalf of the team in the absence of regular skipper Chris Wood.
“It was one of the proudest moments of my life,” said Fallon.
“It is going to be hard to get an international trophy as a captain so I am going to really savour this moment. We are just buzzing.”
Fallon, who recently secured his footballing future by signing a two year deal with English club Truro City as a player/ coach, said it was a very difficult night against a determined Papua New Guinea side who made them work for everything.
“Both teams were defending so hard not to concede and sometimes that is the way football goes,” he said.
“Sometimes it has to go to the penalties.
“It is a horrible way to lose for PNG because they did so well, but I think we deserved it overall throughout the whole tournament.”
He dismissed any criticism of the All Whites style of play by saying: “I don’t care for the purists I just care about winning that is the only thing that matters.”
Both Fallon and Hudson believed this side would only get better with more time together and the character they showed in difficult circumstances would hold them in good stead for the bigger challenges coming on the international stage.
“We have hearts of lions in this squad and everyone has worked their socks off for this,” said Fallon.
“We have worked so hard for this since we came together in Albany.
“That fitness work put us in great stead for that extra time.”
Hudson added: “I am really proud of the players, they have been outstanding since we came together 35 days ago. They have given everything every day and this was full deserved.
“We were the best team here and we showed plenty of character in the final.”
The OFC Nations Cup Final is the first step in the All Whites hopes of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup in 2018.
To do that they will need to beat the fifth-best side from South America to follow in the footsteps of the players from 1982 and 2010.
Hudson and Fallon said the FIFA Confederations Cup will be a huge challenge but a vital next step in the development of this All Whites side.
But before then there is the chance to reflect on a successful OFC Nations Cup.
Story courtesy of New Zealand Football