All Whites' coach Danny Hay is satisfied with the overall outcomes of their two-game European tour, despite a disappointing display against Lithuania on Monday (NZT).

The New Zealand side went down 1-0 in a fractured contest, where the scoreline could have been more emphatic, but for some poor finishing by the home side, as well as plenty of dogged defending by the All Whites.

Hay had downplayed the significance of the result, but the reaction of the All Whites post-match showed how much it meant to them.

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They were aiming for a rare win in Europe, or at the least a strong performance to finish the trip on a high.

They got neither, but the situation needs to be put in perspective.

James McGarry, Tim Payne, Callum McCowatt, Alex Rufer, Joe Bell; Lithuania v New Zealand All Whites - International Football Friendly match at Lithuania National Stadium, Lithuania on 17th November
James McGarry, Tim Payne, Callum McCowatt, Alex Rufer, Joe Bell; Lithuania v New Zealand All Whites - International Football Friendly match at Lithuania National Stadium, Lithuania on 17th November

It was a completely new team, with none of the starters from the Ireland clash, and they only had one brief training session to prepare.

It was also played on artificial turf, against a match hardened team with numerous games together.

"This was an exercise in terms of finding out about the squad – their character, their mentality, their investment levels, and their quality and ability to potentially play the way we want to moving forward," said Hay. "We'll certainly get some answers with regard to that."

Premium gold

The All Whites went behind just before halftime – to a beautiful long-range strike from the Lithuanian right-winger —but were fortunate not to concede before that.

They were under pressure from the first minute, with two chances in quick succession, and central defenders Bill Tuiloma and Tommy Smith spent most of the match dealing with attacking waves.

They did have chances, with Andre De Jong lifting a clipped shot from just outside the area over the bar, with the goal at his mercy, while Smith fired a bullet header straight at the keeper from a clever Marco Rojas cross.


But the New Zealand side, coming from different club environments, struggled with their conditioning against players who are all in season.

"The fact that we could use a friendly international to blood some of our younger players, and for them to get exposed to hardened international footballers [is good]," said Hay. "Lithuania have played multiple games this season and you could just see their physicality and pace."

"We're going to have to make sure now that there are standards put in place about how we turn up to environments. At times the lack of fitness was evident from us, the lack of match sharpness, with some of our players not having played for a long time."

Lithuania v New Zealand All Whites. Photo / Photosport
Lithuania v New Zealand All Whites. Photo / Photosport

Hay singled out Rojas, Tuiloma and Smith as some of the better performers, in a match where most players had their moments, just not enough. Alex Rufer and Matt Ridenton were both subbed at halftime, with Joe Bell and Sarpreet Singh coming into the game.

"We needed to get a bit more control in there and a little more of an ability to try and maintain possession, and we thought with those two changes that that was going to transpire."

It was a surreal occasion. The compact stadium was less than half full, but the 2,000 or so spectators, made a raucous atmosphere.

The men in yellow got better as the match progressed, with New Zealand restricted to occasional chances, and only goalkeeper Michael Woud preventing further damage on the scoreboard.

The All Whites tried to implement the pass and move style that had worked so well against Ireland, but it was difficult against the high press employed by the Eastern European team. They persevered, to their credit, but lacked the incisiveness in the final third.

"They're going to learn a lot from that," said Hay. "Be brave, but make good decisions when you try to play out. We had some unbelievable moments that were really good against Ireland, but we were not so good tonight. You saw it in fits and spurts, but probably not enough for our liking"

But Hay at least now has a strong idea of his first XI, as well as giving every player some match time, which was always a key aim of the trip.