According to Frank Farina, Ricki Herbert used to take pleasure in leaving stud marks on his shins when the pair squared off as players in transtasman matches.
Herbert just smiles in the way defenders often do when challenged on this.
Tomorrow the pair will face off as rival coaches as New Zealand take on Papua New Guinea and Farina will hope his side can leave stud marks, metaphorically speaking, on the All Whites and cause an upset.
It’s unlikely, but the former Socceroos striker and coach states his players have to believe they can win.
”It’s a challenge to play the ideal team in Oceania and I have seen in the past with the Socceroos and New Zealand that banana skins happen,” stated Farina, who will soon become just the sixth recipient of the Alex Tobin Medal, the highest honour awarded by the Australian PFA. “I think the island countries, including PNG, have to believe that it’s possible otherwise they might as well not turn up.”
It’s the first time in 12 years Papua New Guinea have played at the Oceania Nations Cup and Farina has found himself virtually going back to basics with his coaching methods as he tries to get his side up to speed.
They were resolute in their 1-0 defeat to the Solomon Islands yesterday (Sat) but also limited and the All Whites will hope they can find some fluency after their difficult 1-0 victory over Fiji.
Herbert is likely to make a handful of changes. It’s unlikely goalkeeper Mark Paston will be risked as he recovers from concussion, meaning Jake Gleeson could begin – Glen Moss could play but is coming back from a torn adductor.
Chris Wood, Jeremy Brockie and Michael Boxall might also be given the nod with Marco Rojas, Leo Bertos and Ivan Vicelich the most likely to make way with Wood playing as a front pairing with Shane Smeltz and Kosta Barbarouses playing in behind.
Rojas was largely ineffective against Fiji as he struggled physically and Herbert is also mindful of the cards picked up by both Bertos and Vicelich that could hurt them later in the tournament – players are suspended for one game if they pick up two yellows at any time in the competition.
”It will be beneficial to try to rest some players but the ones who will come in were knocking on the door anyway,” Herbert said. “It’s not because we are playing PNG we are going to win comfortably. We need to be careful.”
Farina doesn’t have the luxury of a deep squad and knows their tournament will be effectively over if they fail to get a result. It could also spell the end of Farina’s tenure with PNG – his contract is up at the conclusion of PNG’s World Cup campaign.
He took on the job last year after suing Brisbane Roar for more than A$325,000 in damages following his sacking as coach for drink driving charges but has a connection with the country having spent 10 years of his childhood there.
”There was obviously a bit going on with the court case going on up in Brisbane and this opportunity came up 14 months ago,” he said. “It was a good opportunity to keep my hand in football. I have thoroughly enjoyed it.
”They are probably where Australia or New Zealand were 25 years ago in terms of a professional league starting and building that up. It’s a challenge for everyone involved … but it’s enjoyable.
”The size of the country makes it a battle and also the status of rugby league. The national side also had not played for eight years when I was appointed – this is the first time in 12 years they have played in the Nations Cup – and when you do not play international football and do not expose players to that, you cannot improve.”
The All Whites will hope they do not show too much of that tomorrow.
Possible New Zealand side to play Papua New Guinea at the Lawson Tama Stadium, Honiara, tomorrow (1pm NZT): Gleeson; Sigmund, Smith (c ), Boxall; Brockie, Killen, McGlinchey, Lochhead; Barbarouses; Smeltz, Wood. Substitutes from: Moss, Paston, Myers, Vicelich, Hogg, Bertos, Clapham, McGeorge, Howieson, Payne, Rojas, Fallon.
By Michael Brown of APNZ in Honiara
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