WELLINGTON, (FIJI TV) – Fiji is already looking ahead to 2022 after New Zealand prevailed 2-0 in Wellington to advance to the final stage of Oceania qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Ryan Thomas scored his first goals in an All Whites shirt as the home side proved too strong for a Fijian side that occasionally threatened on the counter attack but largely kept plenty of bodies behind the ball.
Coach Anthony Hudson said they were in control throughout the match.
“I thought we played some very very good football and again from start to finish I thought we dominated the game,” he said.
“I think we limited them really to very few chances. I think when we had to defend the team defended incredibly well together so overall really really pleasing.
“It’s been a good tour for us – solid tour – and one we can build on.”
“It’s a big big progression from where we were last year when we played against the island teams,” he said.
“I definitely think we’re a lot better with the ball, a lot more dominant in possession and I think just the mentality of the group and the work ethic of the team has been very good over both games.”
Anthony Hudson said it was difficult for the home side to break down the Fijian defence.
“Especially when we played quickly forward they had a lot of bodies behind the ball,” he said.
“Whenever we tried to play through them or put a cross in there was a load of bodies in there. I think when you play against bigger teams they sort of come out a bit more so over the two games it’s been difficult to really carve them open.
“I think the key for us was to be patient over both legs and really the key was to try and control the game in possession.”
It was also a night to remember for the Ingham family, with 17-year-old Dane Ingham getting his first start and brother Jai making his international debut as a second half substitute.
“Unbelievable experience coming here, especially in front of my mum who travelled down,” said Melbourne Victory forward Jai Ingham.
“It was a great performance from the boys and we can keep working and all the boys are outstanding – not just tonight but throughout the whole camp and everyone has welcomed us so much and all the boys are very supportive and positive and it’s just great to be a part of.”
Fiji coach Christophe Gamel remained proud of his players and believed they showed improvements from the first leg in Lautoka.
“We can manage the ball, I was sure about that,” he said.
“There is a big gap still, I have to close this gap more and more but we didn’t have another summer international friendly game so I have a lot of things to change in the federation regarding the football.”
Fiji will face New Caledonia home and away in June and Gamel said, with the 2018 World Cup now out of the picture, he will focus on bringing in new talent to the national set-up.
“I will start to work already with youth. We have to change the things and it’s better to start with youth,” he said.
“Some good, older players I will take them to help, to grow these youth players and I hope that next time we come here we will give a tough [performance] again against the New Zealand team. It’s my vision.”.