Football: All Whites prepared to sacrifice victory for development of young team for World Cup campaign

All Whites coach Darren Bazeley seems prepared to lose a few games now to build the foundations of his team's next World Cup run.

Bazeley will take a strong New Zealand team to Europe - in truth, most are already based there - to face Greece and Republic of Ireland next week, as they build a wider squad for the next World Cup campaign.

Their last qualifying bid came to a halt in the intercontinental playoff against Costa Rica in June 2022 and then-coach Danny Hay did not re-apply for his job soon after. 

Darren Bazeley coaches Ben Waine against Congo.
Darren Bazeley coaches Ben Waine against Congo. Photo credit: Photosport

The All Whites are six games into the Bazeley era, with a win over China, and draws against China and Congo to their credit, but the man in charge admits he's playing the long game with his group.

Their last outing was a 2-0 defeat to archrivals Australia at Brentford.

"Right now, we're moving through these fixtures towards our World Cup qualifiers," Bazeley told Newshub. "Whilst we try to win every game we play, there is an element of building blocks to keep developing towards the really important games.

"We were disappointed to lose against Australia. They're a very good team and they posed us some good problems, and on the day, they were better than us.

"That's a challenge for us and we want to build up, so when we play them again at some stage, we can perform a bit better."

New Zealand are currently ranked 103rd in the world, with Greece (51st) and Ireland (58th) rated well above. Neither reached the last World Cup in Qatar, but both are still in playoff contention - from the same group - for next year's Euro championships.

Greece won Euro 2004.

"They're the sort of test we need to keep having," said Bazeley. "It's really important we have these tests to see what level we've got to get to perform and compete against these type of teams.

"We can play lesser-ranked teams and probably get more regular success resultswise, but having these tests is really important to us.

"We're starting to put performances on and, at some stage, we'll start to get some really good results."

All Whites squad

Goalkeepers: Max Crocombe, Alex Paulsen, Michael Woud

Defenders: Tyler Bindon, Michael Boxall, Liberato Cacace, Tim Payne, Nando Pijnaker, Tommy Smith, Finn Surman, Dalton Wilkins

Midfielders: Joe Bell, Matthew Garbett, Clayton Lewis, Callum McCowatt, Sarpreet Singh, Marko Stamenic

Forwards: Joe Champness, Alex Greive, Eli Just, Max Mata, Ben Waine, Chris Wood