EDMONTON — A confident John Herdman dissected New Zealand’s tactics at his pre-game news conference Wednesday at the Women’s World Cup.
And the Canadian coach made it clear that he does not expect the Football Ferns to bring anything new to the table Thursday.
“Very clearly, we’re a better team … And I think quality for quality, we’re a better team than New Zealand,” said Herdman.
“And if we connect and we connect like we did against China for periods and we improve on some things and we live the game plan, Canada should win this game. I said this right from the onset, we should win this group.”
Winning the group means less travel and avoiding other group winners until deeper into the 24-team tournament.
Canada, ranked eighth in the world, is coming off a 1-0 win over No. 16 China while No. 17 New Zealand was beaten 1-0 by the 12th-ranked Netherlands in the other opening Group A match.
Herdman is no stranger to the Kiwis. He used to coach them and current head coach Tony Readings is his former assistant.
And while he plans to have a glass of wine with Readings after the game, Herdman made no secret about the outcome he expects at Commonwealth Stadium. Canada wants the points more, he said.
Bravado aside, some observers thought Herdman struggled to keep his emotions in check when he was first asked about facing his old team. In contrast, the New Zealand camp was all business.
“The fact that we’re playing against a coach that used to be in charge of this team doesn’t really change too much for us,” Readings said at his subsequent news conference.
“To be honest as a team, we haven’t really spoken about John at all,” added midfielder Annalie Longo.
Asked about Herdman’s comments on the New Zealand tactics, Readings said other people’s opinions were “completely irrelevant.”
The closest thing to a broadside sent back in Herdman’s direction was Readings’ comment that the New Zealand squad has more depth than ever.
Herdman called New Zealand a stiff test but then went into detail on how they can be overcome.
For the Canadian coach, if the Kiwis aren’t a one-trick pony, they’re a two-trick pony. And Canada can beat them, as long as it doesn’t help New Zealand by making mistakes, something Herdman called providing “loaded guns.”
“That’s what they want. They want you to over-play in areas and hit you on the counter-attack with (striker) Hannah Wilkinson who’s their main goalscorer. They’ve got one specific tactic that they play, a diagonal ball in behind your fullback and centre back every single time. And all of their goals either come from a set piece or that pass to Wilkinson.
“So if you stop Wilkinson …. you’ll deal with it. If you can nail them on set pieces you can deal with them. So outside of that (if) you don’t give them a loaded gun, which is what we nearly did to China — give them silly little mistakes that cost you at the international level — we’ll come through this game with our six points (in the standings).”
Herdman says his team has New Zealand down pat after scouting them the last two years. “We trailed them around the world.”
“The reality is we know what they’re going to throw at us now,” he said.
A tournament spokesman said the last ticket count was 25,000 for Thursday’s doubleheader. Saturday’s opener in Edmonton drew 53,058.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press