Football: All Whites comfortable as underdogs

Rory Fallon. Photo / Ross Setford
Rory Fallon. Photo / Ross Setford

All Whites striker Rory Fallon said the team will head into their international friendlies with Mexico and the USA as considerable underdogs but that is just the way they like it.

Seven of the New Zealand squad have arrived in Nashville and completed a light training session in warm conditions to get over the jet-lag, while the remainder of the squad arrived in this afternoon.

Fallon said the All Whites, ranked No 88 in the world, have a huge challenge on their hands when they take on World No 14 Mexico in Nashville on Saturday and World No 26 the USA in Washington DC three days later.

"We go in as underdogs and I always feel that New Zealanders love to be the underdog and push ourselves a lot further," said the 34-year-old from Truro City.

Fallon, who played a leading role in the team's OFC Nations Cup victory in May, said this tour was a totally different scenario compared to what they faced in Papua New Guinea.

"In the Islands you are expected to win and you have to win no matter what, whereas these games we are not expected to win but we need to believe."

Fallon, who has played 23 internationals for New Zealand and scored six goals, said winning on this tour was not as important as the OFC Stage Three Qualifiers coming up or the FIFA Confederations Cup but strong performances would be vital for building confidence.

"Good results and delivering good performances builds team momentum and belief. These fixtures are huge for us. The Mexico game in particular. If we can get through the OFC qualifiers and go to South America for the playoff Mexico will be very similar in terms of what we will face in the Intercontinental Playoff. This is a good test to see where we are at."

Fallon said the games would also be ideal for reintegrating many players back into the group - like skipper Winston Reid, Wellington Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante, midfielder Henry Cameron and Deklan Wynne - and re-establishing Anthony Hudson's style of play.

"It is great to be back," said Wynne. "To see some of the guys who I played the U-20 World Cup with and to see Anthony and the staff it is great. I can't wait to play in these two games, I am really excited."

The 21-year-old skilful defender, who plays his football for Vancouver Whitecaps FC, has not played for New Zealand since March 2015 and said he loves the challenge of international football.

"It is another level," he said. "I love being part of this environment. The support staff supply us with everything we need to perform so we want to give back with our performance and do really well."

Wynne said the depth in Hudson's squad is noticeably stronger than it was three or four years ago and tours like this one are important for pressing his claims. He is looking forward to a busy calendar for the All Whites as they build towards the OFC Stage Three Qualifiers and the Intercontinental Playoff.

"With the Confederations Cup and the qualifiers for the World Cup there are all sorts of opportunities for players which is good," he said. "We want to kick on from here. The depth is really strong in the All Whites right now and we know we are all fighting for our places. Every player here is looking forward to playing two really big teams. It is good that we have a week of training before the first game starts and I am sure we can do really well."

Fallon said the team had a tough time against Mexico last time - when they lost the home and away legs in the Intercontinental Playoff 9-3 on aggregate in 2013 - but added the team is now better equipped to handle that challenge.

"This is a different scenario. We are a lot more organised now. We are going to be a lot harder to beat and as long as we go out there with a 100 percent belief then we'll do well. We are going to face teams as tough as this and tougher in the Confederations Cup so we have to be used to being put under a lot of pressure."

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