Stuart Dye 's Opinion

Stuart Dye is a reporter and editor for the Herald on Sunday

Stuart Dye: To take a risk All Whites' biggest lesson

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Amid the homecoming celebrations, the All Whites must learn lessons from this World Cup - and perhaps learning how to take a risk is the biggest lesson of all.

In their final match against Paraguay, the All Whites failed to make changes at the critical time - changes that could have made a difference to the result.

With half-an-hour to go it was time to try something different. Throw caution to the wind and go for the goal that could have seen New Zealand make the second round of the tournament.

Instead, the game fizzled out with barely a whimper.

That is not to take away from the players' monumental effort. Three draws will be rightly celebrated as an unprecedented success.

But it is a disservice to those on the field, and to the sport, to fail to apply some critical analysis.

And it is hard not to suggest that changes should have taken place.

Some voices in the press box suggested that had Herbert been offered a draw before the match he would have taken it. That is surely an implausible suggestion because to accept a draw was to accept defeat.

New Zealand had to win to progress to the next stage of the tournament.

The obvious change would have been to dispense with the 3-4-3 formation. Ricki Herbert has described it as an attacking formation, but in reality it was more of a 5-4-1 for much of the time as the All Whites were forced on to the back foot.

To have gone to a 4-4-2 formation could hardly be termed reckless. It is football's most common formation.

A back four would have freed the All Whites most creative player Leo Bertos from defensive duties and allowed him to work on attacking his full-back and providing crosses so craved by the big front men.

Instead of revolving the personnel up front, perhaps Tim Brown or Michael McGlinchey could have been brought on for Ivan Vicelich to provide more forward thrust in the centre of the park, and more support for the increasingly isolated front line.

Of course, this could have seen Paraguay score three in the last 30 minutes.

But 3-0 would have had the same net result as 0-0.

Conversely, it might have seen New Zealand nick the all important goal.

Probably, Herbert would argue he didn't have the personnel to make such changes but that is the nature of a gamble. Regardless, Herbert must have had his reasons for sticking with his favoured line-up and it is impossible to argue with its success over the three games.

But in that last game it's hard not to wonder "what if?"

- NZ Herald

Stuart Dye

Stuart Dye is a reporter and editor for the Herald on Sunday

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