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All Whites turn focus to Fiji

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 15/11/2016

All White Ryan Thomas in action during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match against New Caledonia  on Nov 12, 2016 in Auckland. © Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images All White Ryan Thomas in action during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match against New Caledonia on Nov 12, 2016 in Auckland. Fresh from a scoreless draw against New Caledonia, the All Whites are already turning their focus to their next World Cup qualifying matches against Fiji in March.

Following Saturday's 2-0 win in Auckland, the New Zealanders solidified a strong position in their Oceania group in a testing and sometimes bitter match in Kone on Tuesday.

They were far from dominant, however, and New Caledonia held the upper hand through the middle stages of the match at the tiny Stade Yoshida.

The game closed on something of a sour note after Les Cagous captain Bertrand Kai was red-carded for a blatant head butt on Ryan Thomas seven minutes from time.

All Whites coach Anthony Hudson says his team had set a target of a minimum four points from their two games against New Caledonia, and were satisfied to have achieved their goal.

"I think you have to give credit to them," he said after the match. "It was a tough place to come, they are a very tough team.

"I think we could have killed the game off with our chances early in the game but we kept a clean sheet and we're still unbeaten now, so we're happy."

Experienced central defender Andrew Durante was nonetheless disappointed not to get all three points in Kone.

"Against these island nations, if you get early goals they tend to open up and go a little bit kamikaze going forward," he said afterwards.

"But we couldn't get it in the back of the net - they really came at us on their home turf.

"I think if we'd got those early goals, it could have been a completely different game."

The Wellington Phoenix captain, who marshalled the New Zealand back four in the absence of injured skipper Winston Reid, said there was still plenty of work to do before the All Whites meet Fiji in March.

Maintaining a competitive squad, with players fighting for a starting spot, was key.

"We want to keep getting better and improving as a squad," Durante said.

"All the players need to understand they're fighting for positions. We've got a competitive squad, a good squad, and we need to make the most of our opportunities."

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