The All Whites have gone down fighting, losing 2-1 to Kenya in their opening game of The HERO Intercontinental Cup on Sunday, June 2 in wet and humid conditions at the Mumbai Football Arena, Mumbai, India.

After India defeated Chinese Taipei 5-0 on the first day of the tournament, New Zealand looked to keep pace with the tournament hosts, but Kenya came from behind in the monsoon conditions to claim the valuable three points.

New Zealand dominated the first 45 minutes and created a number of goal scoring opportunities but lacked the finishing touch. Sarpreet Singh was a constant source of inspiration, alongside Matt Ridenton, and Jai and Dane Ingham combined well down the right-hand flank. The best chance of the night fell to Alex Rufer who hit a shot from the edge of the area well over the bar.

The All Whites deservedly took the lead shortly before halftime through Singh, but Kenya went ahead midway through the second half after Miheso Cliffton and Ovella Ochieng found the back of the net.

Promising All Whites midfielder Singh continued his dream season when he capped off a fine display with his first goal for the national team. The 19-year-old from the Wellington Phoenix, in only his second start for the All Whites, received a ball from Rufer on the edge of the area and curled in a superb shot to the bottom left corner to beat Matasi in the 44th minute.

The Kiwis celebrations were short-lived as three minutes later Matt Ridenton conceded a free-kick on the edge of the box. He was the first player in the referee’s book and while there was a debate about the challenge, there was no question about the finish from Cliffton. The big powerful midfielder hammered a shot to the top right corner which gave Max Crocombe no chance in goal.

The Kiwis ran to the sheds with a bitter taste in their mouth, but their frustrations grew in the second half. Even though they controlled possession for long periods, they could not create clear cut scoring opportunities in the draining conditions.

They were punished midway through the second half when the All Whites pressed forward and were vulnerable to the counterattack. Ochieng found space and was one on one with the keeper Crocombe and coolly slotted home from the edge of the area to take the lead.

Schmid introduced three players to international football with defender Nikko Boxall starting, while forward Noah Billingsley and defender Justin Gulley came off the bench to make their debuts.   

Billingsley, who came on for Ridenton in the second half, and another second-half substitute Myer Bevan had half chances which they could not finish and Kenya held on for the win. They move to level points with India at the top of the table.

New Zealand will look to bounce back from this loss in game one when they take on Chinese Taipei on 5 June and they finish their pool games against India on 7 June.

The HERO Intercontinental Cup

New Zealand 1 (Sarpreet Singh 44’) Kenya 2 (Miheso Cliffton 45’ + 4’, Ovella Ochieng 68’) HT: 1-1

Team New Zealand: 1. Max Crocombe, 3. Nikko Boxall, 6. Tim Payne (56’ 4. Te Atawhai Hudson Wihongi 56’), 7. Cam Howieson, 9. Alex Rufer (17. Myer Bevan 46’), 11. Jai Ingham (8. Henry Cameron 72’), 16. Dane Ingham (13. Justin Gulley 46’), 18. Matthew Ridenton (10. Noah Billingsley 62’), 19. Thomas Doyle ©, 20. Adam Mitchell, 22. Sarpreet Singh

Substitutes not used: 2. Sam Brotherton, 5. Moses Dyer, 12. Nik Tzanev, 14. Andre de Jong, 15. Clayton Lewis, 21. Liberato Cacace, 23. Michael Woud.

The New Zealand football team is all set to start their four-nation tournament in Mumbai with an impeccable victory over Kenya in their inaugural match against Kenya on Sunday, June 2, believes team’s High-Performance Manager, Dwayne Woolliams.

All Whites’ four-nation tournament in India

All Whites High-Performance Manager, Dwayne Woolliams was in The Indian Weekender’s studio along with Rakesh Naidoo, Executive Board Member of New Zealand Football to speak more about the tour to India.

All Whites are currently in Mumbai on a ten-day tour to participate in the four-nation tournament.

The team is ranked 133 on the FIFA world rankings and will play against the host, India, Chinese Taipei/Taiwan and Kenya.

The Indian Weekender spoke to the team’s new High-Performance Manager Dwayne Woolliams who was confident that the All Whites will give a tough competition to the other three teams.

Mr Dwayne looks after the business arm of the New Zealand Football by organising games, tours, logistics, staff, contracts, etc in a manner that team’s competency could be enhanced.

The Kiwi team is excited to be in the competition Mumbai as it is in its first year of the four-year cycle building up to the next FIFA World Cup. The tournament would be giving an opportunity to All Whites to play with teams ranked higher than them.

“We are at a time where we have the opportunity to try and test some new players and really try some exciting football,” Dwayne told The Indian Weekender.

“The tournament is crucial for the All Whites as they look forward to playing against very experienced and world-class players, Manager Dwayne Woolliams said.

Mr Dwayne points out Sukhpreet Singh of Wellington Phoenix as one of the key players to watch out in the tournament.

Executive Board Member of New Zealand Football Rakesh Naidoo reiterated the contribution of diverse communities in the sports, especially the Kiwi-Indian players who have been playing football in New Zealand for decades and there are well-established clubs and tournaments, and we see a lot of talents coming through there.

“Through NZ football clubs and federations, we look forward to getting diverse communities be it  

Indian, Chinese, Samoan, Pacific playing football. Any sport is an ideal opportunity to get communities to get engage and interact with one another,” Rakesh Naidoo said.

“Sukhpreet Singh is an excellent example and Roy Krishna, captain of the Fijian football team and player for Wellington Phoenix who is like role models for the Indian community in pursuing football as a professional sport,” Rakesh Naidoo added.

The players are also gearing themselves for the scorching temperature of Mumbai’s summer which can soar over 35 degrees so that the players do not get dehydrated and overheat.

The All Whites lost against Kenya on Sunday, June 2, will play Chinese Taipei/Taiwan on Tuesday, June 5 and against India on Thursday, June 8 and the All Whites are quite confident that the finals will be played against the hosts on Sunday, June 10.