Steven Holloway is the football writer for the NZ Herald.

Anthony Hudson: We won't make the same mistakes

Marco Rojas of New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images.
Marco Rojas of New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images.

All Whites coach Anthony Hudson is banking on squad rotation at the OFC Nations Cup to help New Zealand avoid the mistakes made at the 'Horror in Honiara', when they bowed out of the tournament in the semifinal four years ago.

New Zealand face the Solomon Islands tomorrow in their final group game with their path all but guaranteed through to the semifinal, and Hudson plans on "mixing things up" to combat heat and player fatigue.

Hudson will be without injured skipper Chris Wood, who is doubtful for the rest of the tournament in Papua New Guinea after injuring his shoulder, and Bill Tuiloma (groin) and Sam Brotherton (eye) will likely also be rested.

"I'd always planned for the third game, that if we won the first two, to then try and bring a lot of our second group in and let some of the others rest and recover," Hudson said.

"That's one of the things we learned from the Honiara experience, that we have to rotate the squad.

"There will be six or seven changes in the squad and then we will keep three or four key guys in there, but it will certainly be a different look."

Striker Rory Fallon is likely to captain the side and Marco Rojas and South African-based duo Michael Boxall and Jeremy Brockie are expected to start.

Despite a dis-jointed buildup and missing Winston Reid, Tommy Smith, Ryan Thomas and Shane Smeltz, the All Whites have made easy work of their opening two matches against Fiji and Vanuatu, although the competition doesn't look as strong as it was four years ago.

Tahiti and New Caledonia, who played in the final in 2012, appear to have lost some firepower and New Zealand are overwhelming favourites to claim a spot at the Confederations Cup.

The heat can be a great leveler, but Port Moresby's 31-degree heat and 80 per cent humidity is a lot more comfortable compared with Honiara's 38 degrees and 90 per cent humidity four years ago.

The scheduling has also been improved. New Zealand were beaten in their fourth game in seven days when they played New Caledonia in the semifinal in 2012. This year, should the All Whites make the final, they will have played five games over 14 days.

New Zealand have adopted a win-at-all-costs mindset for this tournament, often reverting to long-ball football targeting powerful strikers Fallon and Wood and utilising Tuiloma's long throw-in.

"Playing out here is very difficult," said Wood. "Everyone underestimates how hard it is playing here so the performances don't really matter as long as we're winning, but I think we are playing well and are also scoring a lot of goals."

The Solomon Islands beat Vanuatu 1-0 in their opening match before losing to Fiji on Tuesday. They boast former Phoenix striker Benji Totori, Auckland City standout Micah Lea'alafa and former Team Wellington striker Henry Fa'arodo. They have also brought Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx on board as a technical advisor.

- The All Whites face Solomon Islands at 7pm local time at Sir John Guise Stadium and will be shown LIVE from 8.50pm on SKY Sport Pop-up Channel 055.

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