Football: Coach Danny Hay 'highly pleased' with All Whites efforts in 'ideal build-up' against Peru

All Whites coach Danny Hay has quickly dismissed the suggestion Oli Sail's goalkeeping blunder against Peru may cost him his spot in the starting XI.

Sail's failure to control a back pass from defender Tim Payne led directly to Peru's only - and ultimately, matchwinning - goal in a hard-fought loss at Barcelona in New Zealand's penultimate warm-up match before next week's intercontinental World Cup playoff.

The Wellington Phoenix custodian was selected ahead of Stefan Marinovic and Hay seemed adamant that would remain the case for the immediate future, putting Sail's blunder down to nothing more than a lapse.

"It doesn't mean anything," laughed Hay, when asked of the repercussions for Sail.

"People make mistakes, believe it or not. It happens."

Result aside, Hay was "really pleased" with the way his team acquitted themselves against the world No. 22 Peruvians, defying the enormous discrepancy in the team's respective rankings to ensure a tighly contested match at the packed RCDE Stadium.

In fact, the 101-ranked All Whites almost had an equaliser just minutes after conceding, as Ben Waine turned home a cross from Liberato Cacace, but was ruled offside by the slimmest of margins.

'It was very, very tight," said Hay with a grin. "It started with a really good press, they were forced to play through the goalkeeper and then our build-up from that point was outstanding.

"I think it showed a little bit more of what we're about."

The All Whites held their own against the Peruvians.
The All Whites held their own against the Peruvians. Photo credit: Photosport

The match was the first the All Whites had played in front of a crowd since 2019 and the 32,000 passionate fans ensured an ideal test of mental focus, before their high stakes clash with Costa Rica, where the winners will book their spot at the World Cup Finals in Qatar later this year.

"The opportunity to play in a stadium like this, in front of such a vocal, loud crowd, where we couldn't communicate effectively with each other  - I think we learnt a hell of a lot," said Hay.

"As the game progressed, and we got over a bit of a fear factor and just played our natural game - game we've worked really hard to start to evolve - I think we really started to come to life in the second half.

"We went through a bit of adversity in that first half, but showed grit and determination 

"Even though Peru had a lot of possession, they didn't really hurt us, so we came in at halftime and spoke about being more courageous, playing higher up the pitch and trying to press them more.

"We had some really good passages of football [in that second half]."

The experience against the quicker and more athletic Peru was also a valuable dress rehearsal for what they'll face against the Costa Ricans, Hay added, although he doesn't expect the central Americans to play as positive a brand of football.

"I think we'll face a similar physical challenge - that was a little bit of a shock for us to start with, just the strength and speed of the Peruvians," he noted. "The Costa Ricans will bring that to the fold as well, so it was an ideal build-up for us.

"I think Costa Rica will probably be a little bit more negative in terms of being out of possession and dropping off a bit more.

"That said, we're focused on ourselves and there were a lot of good elements from the second half that we can take forward into that game."

The All Whites only generated two shots on target, compared to Peru's eight, which will be concerning, but Hay insisted his team was trending in the right direction and starting to establish their own trademark style of play.

"If you looked at the rankings prior to this and you saw No. 101 in the world against No. 22 in the world, people probably wrote us off, but we've got some belief in what we're doing, and some belief in the quality of players we've got and the style of football we're starting to develop.

"This test was massive for us - an opportunity we just haven't had in such a long time.

"To go through that and come out the other side with some real credibility is going to stand us in good stead leading into the game against Costa Rica."

The All White now travel to Doha, Qatar for their final warm-up match against Oman behind closed doors, before next Wednesday's do-or-die showdown with Costa Rica.