New Zealand coach Darren Bazeley says they are already feeling the pressure going into the final of the OFC Men’s Olympic Qualifier against arch-rivals Fiji at North Harbour Stadium in Auckland on Saturday.
New Zealand defeated Fiji 3-1 in the opening Group A match and Bazeley said they are not going to let the earlier win get in their way as they have targeted to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
“There’s pressure on us because it’s such a big reward,” Bazeley said in a media conference.
“We want to go to the Olympics, We’ve got players around the world who are watching the game, important players, I’ve had Woodsy (Nottingham Forest striker Chris Wood )on the phone this morning, wanting to know how it’s going, you know, it’s a big reward.”
“So, yes, there’s pressure to win this game.”
Bazeley said the Oly Whites are ready to face Fiji they are not in any way affected by the Fijians’ hard performance and win in the second Pool match against PNG and semifinal against the Solomon Islands.
“But we treat it like another game of football, it’s 11 v 11. It’s an opponent that we have faced. So we know a little bit about them. The boys have worked hard; we’re in a pretty good place physically and tactically. And so we’re ready.”
“We’ve had some good battles with them over the last couple of years in the Under 20’s. We have played them a few times and they’re getting stronger. Now they have a coach like Rob who is getting them organised.”
While the hosts have been tagged as the fan favorites of the tournament, he added that discipline and concentration will be key for them.
“They’re going to be tricky. It’s a tricky game, they’re quite physical, have some big boys and they’ve got some players with some skill as well. So we must make sure that we manage properly, and we just need to do our job to keep our discipline, keep our concentration and we should be fine.”
“We are going into a game where we’re the favorites to win. But it’s always a tricky occasion, that’s why I keep talking about discipline and concentration, because we can’t get involved in off-the-ball things, and we’ve just got to make sure that we defend properly, we don’t take risks that we play our game, and just have a good solid performance.”
The final between New Zealand and Fiji will kick off at 7pm.