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WCup qualifier likely last match for NZ coach

November 19, 2013

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The international coaching career of Ricki Herbert, who led New Zealand to unprecedented success at the 2010 World Cup, will likely end after the return leg of its inter-continental qualifier against Mexico on Wednesday, which may also end its latest Cup campaign.

Mexico takes a solid, four-goal buffer into Wednesday’s match after winning last week’s opening leg 5-1 in Mexico City and nothing in the New Zealand’s recent form, or in the steely resolve of the Mexico team, suggests the deficit can be overcome.

Herbert’s contract ends with the campaign and Football New Zealand has already indicated his job will be advertised.

Mexico coach Miguel Herrera has a little more job security after achieving a first leg win as his nation’s fourth coach in six weeks.

While Herbert on Tuesday refused to concede his eight year term at the helm of the New Zealand side might be at an end, his chances of reappointment seem slim.

Football New Zealand chief executive Frank van Hattum, a goalkeeper when New Zealand first played at a World Cup in 1982, says he hopes the vacant coaching role will attract interest from highly-qualified foreign applicants. He has invited Herbert to reapply for his job but his reference to a “new era” for the national team suggests he has little hope of reappointment.

Tensions around the current campaign appeared to expose Herbert’s bitterness that he has not been more roundly acclaimed for his performance as national coach. Asked whether he expected to continue in the role he snapped “is there anyone better?” then insisted that he had “rescued” professional football in New Zealand.

Asked again on Tuesday whether he believed his time as national coach may be up, Herbert said “we’ll see, that certainly hasn’t been agreed yet by any stretch.”

Herbert said he feels under less pressure than he did four years ago when he led New Zealand into a qualifier in Wellington against Bahrain. The teams had drawn 0-0 in the first leg in Bahrain and New Zealand won 1-0 to secure its place at the World Cup in South Africa.

“I’m going to enjoy tomorrow night, if I’m honest,” he said. “It’s easy to be critical, as we’ve seen over the past week in different areas, and we cope with that. That’s the roles we’re in.

“But I think it’s my responsibility to flow that calmness down to the players and give them the best opportunity, spirit-wise, to go out tomorrow night to perform.”

Herbert won’t name his team until match morning but he is expected to make as many as five changes to his first-leg lineup in the hope of creating a more attacking combination.

“It’s just going to be all out attack,” said striker Jeremy Brockie, who has yet to score in 41 international appearances. “We have some very good attacking players in this side ... so there is no reason why we can’t get goals.”

Herrera came under huge pressure when he led Mexico into the first leg and made that pressure greater when he named a starting lineup composed entirely of players from domestic leagues. Mexican fans had already had to swallow the bitter pill of a fourth place finish in the CONCACAF region and the indignity of a playoff for a World Cup place.

Mexico’s comfortable win relieved some of that pressure and allowed fans of the El Tri to breathe easier. But Herrera has still warned there is no room for complacency — “for triumphalism” — in Wednesday’s return match.

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