Football: All Whites v Tunisia, all you need to know

All Whites v Tunisia

  • Kickoff: 9am Wednesday, 27 March (NZT)
  • New Administrative Capital Stadium, New Cairo
  • Live blog updates on RNZ Sport
  • New Zealand’s men will take on Tunisia for the first ever time in an international fixture this week, one which will determine the third and fourth-place finishers at the ACUD International Cup in Egypt.

    The All Whites lost their semi-final match to the hosts 1-0 while Tunisia lost to Croatia on penalties after heroics from Kockasti goalkeeper Ivica Ivusic. For Darren Bazeley, it is a chance to have one final look at his players ahead of a first competition fixture in two years. They take on New Caledonia at the OFC Nations Cup in June – 24 months to the day since their World Cup play-off defeat to Costa Rica.

    It is therefore something of a must-win game for both sides. Tunisia have tough World Cup qualifiers of their own coming up in June and are themselves in dire need of a confidence boost. Meanwhile, New Zealand’s players continue to need minutes playing together, something that has become increasingly regular since the darker times of Covid-19 inactivity.

    Here’s a look at the squads:


    Goalkeepers: Mouez Hassen, Aymen Dahmen, Bechir Ben Saïd. Defenders: Ali Abdi, Dylan Bronn, Hamza Jelassi, Oussama Haddadi, Wajdi Kechrida, Alaa Ghram, Hamza Mathlouthi, Nader Ghandri, Amin Cherni, Ghaith Zaalouni. Midfielders: Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane, Hamza Rafia, Aïssa Laïdouni, Ellyes Skhiri, Hadj Mahmoud, Mootez Zaddem, Samy Chouchane, Faissal Mannai. Forwards: Haythem Jouini, Sayfallah Ltaief, Seifeddine Jaziri, Elias Saad.

    New Zealand

    Goalkeepers: Max Crocombe, Alex Paulsen, Oli Sail. Defenders: Tyler Bindon, Michael Boxall, Liberato Cacace, Dane Ingham, Lukas Kelly-Heald, Nando Pijnaker, Tommy Smith, Finn Surman. Midfielders: Matthew Garbett, Clayton Lewis, Callum McCowatt, Ben Old, Sarpreet Singh, Marko Stamenic, Alex Rufer. Forwards: Kosta Barbarouses, Elijah Just, Max Mata, Ben Waine.

    All Whites preview

    Who on earth is going to score goals for New Zealand? That’s the key question facing Darren Bazeley ahead of this final March fixture. The All Whites’ goalscoring exploits represent a complicated paradox. When the OFC Nations Cup and World Cup qualifiers roll around later this year, New Zealand will likely rack up the scoring – as they did in the 2022 qualifying campaign, netting 18 goals in five games.

    Max Mata.

    However, discounting those regional results, New Zealand have scored just seven goals in 15 games. With Chris Wood absent again, they struggled without the focal point in the form of their record goalscorer.

    It represents a longer-term issue. Kosta Barbarouses is in sensational form at club level but at 34 is not a long-term option.

    Max Mata has shown endeavour and scores for fun in the Republic of Ireland, where he recently returned to former club Sligo Rovers on loan after a difficult start to life in England at Shrewsbury Town. Much like the All Whites, his club side has a lot of belief in Mata’s ability but he will need to start scoring regularly at a higher level, and soon, if he is to be the alternative to Wood for New Zealand.

    Other options include Ben Waine, although he too has struggled for game-time and goals since a move to England. Another, Alex Greive has been loaned out by his parent club St Mirren to Dundee United in Scotland’s second tier and is absent from the squad on this occasion.

    After that, New Zealand would be looking at the likes of Ryan de Vries, Andre de Jong, Myer Bevan or Moses Dyer – who all play at a level not consistent with the higher ambitions of New Zealand football. Meanwhile, younger options such as Luke Supyk, Adam Watson, Kian Donkers and Oliver Colloty are some way away from being ready for this level. The pool is shallow and, with 32-year-old Wood battling consistent injury issues, a gun-shy New Zealand may continue to struggle against tougher opposition going forward.

    Max Crocombe.

    At the other end of the field, Max Crocombe appears to have secured the number one spot in goal but this fixture could represent a chance to give Alex Paulsen a well-deserved international debut. The chance to reward his Phoenix club-mate Finn Surman for similar good form with a second cap has passed, with the young defender suffering a head injury in training ruling him out of the fixture.

    Tunisia preview

    The Eagles of Carthage (yes, that is their nickname) gave an impressive account of themselves in a defeat to World Cup semi-finalists Croatia in the other FIFA Series clash in Egypt at the weekend.

    Much like New Zealand, an extremely tight VAR decision cost them, eventually going on to lose on penalties after Hamza Jelassi’s goal in normal time was ruled out for the tightest of offside calls.

    Players of Tunisia.

    But despite their good showing, this is an out-of-form Tunisia side. Like Egypt, they are looking to bounce back following a horrible African Cup of Nations performance earlier this year. They exited at the Group Stage after an abysmal showing, including a 1-0 loss to minnows Namibia.

    They are now without a win in their past four fixtures and need to return to the sort of well-organised and dangerous form they are capable of – as demonstrated by a 1-0 win over France at the last World Cup.

    Most recent results

    New Zealand

    Egypt 0-1 – Republic of Ireland 1-1 – Australia 0-2


    Croatia 0-0 (loss on penalties) – South Africa 0-0 – Mali 1-1


    Much like several other recent performances, New Zealand impressed in fits and spurts against Egypt but in the end came away without a win – extending their current winless run to six games. It’s been a decade since the All Whites went seven games without tasting victory and avoiding that milestone is certainly not out of the realm of possibility against Tunisia.

    However, the African nation is organised in defence, holding off a Croatia side containing attacking talents from the Bundesliga, Serie A and the Premier League. Add that to New Zealand’s struggles in front of goal, it is hard to see the All Whites picking up the win. Hopefully, they can prove us wrong, but a narrow defeat again seems likely.

    According to the news on Radio New Zealand

    Related News

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Back to top button