46 year old John Adshead had returned to the New Zealand managerial post in time for the start of the World Cup qualification. He had succeeded Kevin Fallon (incidentally, father of footballer Rory Fallon), who had handed in his resignation less than two weeks earlier. Adshead was obviously famous in these parts for having taken the All Whites to their first ever World Cup participation back in 1982, when they’d overcome a gruelling 15 matches qualification campaign to reach the tournament in Spain. The new man in the seat was doubling up with managing at club level, where he was in charge of (Auckland club!) Mount Wellington, one of the country’s leading sides. He was seen as a big character and very charismatic.
It should be noted that nothing had been said about the length of Adshead’s contract. Around this time, there are newspaper reports suggesting that his return was just temporary, as they’re cautiously and perhaps rhetorically asking “(…) whether Adshead remains in charge of affairs or not come March.”
Adshead’s assistant was 38 year old Dave Taylor, a former national team player, who held the record of being New Zealand’s youngest ever international when he turned out in a tie against South Vietnam back in 1967. He was also considered one of the best players the country had ever produced, and had featured in World Cup qualification campaigns both for ’70, ’74 and ’78.
While results towards the end of Fallon’s tenure had failed to impress, most notably that three-fold of matches in Fiji a month prior to the start of the World Cup qualification, there were also reports that he had been very discontent with the players’ daily allowance from the New Zealand FA. This could well have played part in Kevin Fallon’s resignation.
Some critics were pointing out that football in New Zealand was heading nowhere. There appeared to be a limited level of professionalism from the higher echelons in the game, and enthusiasm around the national team had appeared to wane. The unique results in the 1982 World Cup qualification, which ultimately brought about participation in Spain, had raised the bar, and they were a hard act to follow. Could the return of the highly popular Adshead spark a revival in interest around the All Whites team?
Preceding the qualification group stage was a double-header against Chinese Taipei, a team which New Zealand had come up against earlier in the year, when they had beaten them 1-0 and 2-0 in qualification for the Seoul Olympic Games back in March. Those games had been played in Australia and New Zealand respectively. Despite those disappointing results towards the end of Kevin Fallon’s time in charge, the All Whites were expected to advance to the group stage of the World Cup qualification.
Trans Tasman Cup: New Zealand 1-2 Australia
12.10.1988, Caledonian (Dunedin)
Line-up: Gosling – Riley, Herbert, Lund, Dunford – Ferris, McGarry, Halligan – Wright, McClennan, de Jong. Sub: Ironside
Trans Tasman Cup: Australia 2-0 New Zealand
16.10.1988, Queen Elizabeth Oval (Bendigo)
Line-up: Gosling – Riley, Dunford, Lund, Mulligan – Edge, McGarry, Halligan – Wright, McClennan, Ironside. Subs: Ferris, Hanson
Friendly: Fiji 1-1 New Zealand
14.11.1988, Sports Stadium (Suva)
Line-up: Gosling – Ferris, Probert, Lund, Mulligan – Edge, Hanson, Halligan – Tuaa, McClennan, Carville. Sub: Chote
Friendly: Fiji 2-0 New Zealand
17.11.1988, Churchill Park (Lautoka)
Line-up: Gosling – Chote, Probert, Lund, Mulligan – Jacobs, Cossey, Halligan – Tuaa, McClennan, Ironside. Subs: Edge, Ferris
Friendly: Fiji 1-0 New Zealand
19.11.1988, Govind Park (Ba)
Line-up: Stroud – Ferris, Probert, Lund, Mulligan – Jacobs, Hanson, Halligan – Edge, McClennan, Ironside. Subs: Carville, Chote, Cossey, Tuaa
First leg: Chinese Taipei 0-4 New Zealand
11.12.1988, Newton Park (Wellington)
Goals: Wright, McClennan, Barkley, Halligan
Line-up (4-3-3): Gosling – Herbert (c), Lund, Jennison, Ridenton – Levy, Riley (Debenham 72), Halligan – Barkley, McClennan, Wright
Played out in New Zealand, it still took some time before they’d opened the scoring, but once in front, the Kiwis never looked back against limited opposition. All three forwards got on the scoresheet in John Adshead’s first match back as All Whites boss.
Second leg: New Zealand 4-1 Chinese Taipei
15.12.1988, Western Springs (Auckland)
Goals: Wright, McClennan 3
Line-up (4-3-3): Gosling – Herbert (c), Lund, Jennison (Dunford 60), Ridenton – Levy, W Rufer, Halligan – Barkley , McClennan, Wright (Debenham 60)
Played out in front of around 9,000 fans, New Zealand had added big star Wynton Rufer to the side, and from a central midfield position the Switzerland based ace directed traffic. However, striker Darren McClennan made a big claim for the headlines with his hat-trick. Simple passage through to the group stage for the Kiwis.
Match 1: Israel 1-0 New Zealand
05.03.1989, Ramat Gan International Stadium (Tel Aviv)
Line-up: Gosling – Herbert (c), Evans, Lund, Mason – W Rufer, Halligan (Levy 69), Riley, Dunford, Barkley – McClennan (Witteveen 76)
Unfortunately, there’s very little information to retrieve from this tie, which, according to the scant video material available, suggests that the hosts had run out deserved winners.
Match 2: Australia 4-1 New Zealand
12.03.1989, Sydney Football Stadium (Sydney)
Line-up (4-4-2): Gosling – Herbert (c), Evans, Dunford, Mason – Levy, Riley, Halligan (Debenham 41), Witteveen (Gray 80) – McClennan, Barkley
In a tie where New Zealand needed at least a point, preferably a win, they were never in the hunt against a much superior Australian team, and by the full-time whistle, the Kiwis could be relieved at not having lost with a greater margin. Chinese Taipei had been no match; Australia were a totally different proposition. The New Zealanders could not match Australia’s quality in the middle of the park, and though they did create a couple of chances of their own with the score still just 1-0, it was game over once the hosts had added their second. Losing Halligan just before the break was another blow, and had they been inferior prior, slotting Witteveen into the centre alongside Riley didn’t exactly improve them. Two matches, two defeats. Ciao, New Zealand?
Match 3: New Zealand 2-0 Australia
02.04.1989, Mount Smart Stadium (Auckland)
Goals: Dunford, Wright
Line-up (4-4-2): Gosling – Ridenton, Herbert (c), Lund, Mason – Wright, Dunford, Ironside, Barkley (Halligan 73) – de Jong, McClennan (Levy 81)
In a much-changed line-up to their last performance, New Zealand were prepared to battle their way back into the hearts of their supporters. They had been heavily criticized for their manner of defeat in Sydney, but kicking off with the strong wind behind them, they seized control of the game right from the off. Dunford headed home powerfully during a first half which they made their visitors look distinctly ordinary, and for the second half they opted to sit deep and defend, and then hit the Australians on the break. They executed their tactics to perfection, and then capped it off with a brilliant second goal ten minutes from time through Wright’s curled effort into the top right corner. Manager Adshead got some big performances right through the team, and the recalled Ironside and de Jong, both based in Australia, certainly added steel to their select. Well deserved two points, and in addition to hurting their fierce rivals, New Zealand also made sure to still be in the hunt for a first place finish.
Match 4: New Zealand 2-2 Israel
09.04.1989, Mount Smart Stadium (Auckland)
Goals: Wright, Dunford
Line-up (4-5-1): Gosling – Ridenton (Halligan 29), Herbert (c), Lund, Mason – Wright, Riley (Levy 74), Dunford, Ironside, Barkley – de Jong
Again, the All Whites show little fear at home, and they give as good as they get against a decent Israeli outfit. In order to still have a chance to progress through to the intercontinental play-off double-header against South American opposition, the Kiwis needed to win by at least three goals. However, they were rattled when the visitors took the lead on 17 minutes, only to hit back shortly after following a crisp Billy Wright strike for his second in successive matches. The first half saw four goals, and New Zealand took the lead through that man Malcolm Dunford again, who scored with his third header in successive qualifiers after Halligan’s cross. They could not hold on, and conceded again minutes later. In a game where the wind again played a part, the hosts had a few big second half opportunities, twice again through Dunford, and also when de Jong struck just over. Still, they could have lost it late, when Israel went on the counter several times, with only indecision standing between New Zealand and defeat. A draw still aided Australia in what was the Kiwis’ final game of the qualification.
Although New Zealand lost their first two matches of the qualification group stage, which counted a mere four matches per team, they left themselves with a chance, albeit slim, to qualify for the intercontinental play-off stage right until their final qualifier. It is fair to say that they got their act together for their final two matches, which were both at home, after they had lost in Tel Aviv and in Sydney respectively.
Firstly, though, the Kiwis dealt swiftly with Chinese Taipei in the preliminary round of the qualification. As the Taiwanese had agreed to play both fixtures in New Zealand, the first was played in Wellington, and with John Adshead returning, the mood was buoyant prior to the match kicking off. A fine 4-0 win didn’t dampen the spirits, although the opposition, too, had had a few opportunities of their own. The scoreline probably flattered New Zealand somewhat.
Both matches were played in December, and four days after the first leg, it was time for the ‘return’ clash, with Auckland this time the backdrop. The big talking point was the return of Wynton Rufer, who featured in central midfield. Another comprehensive win saw the All Whites progress comfortably through to the group stage. In the 4-1 win, striker Darren McClennan notched a hat-trick, while Rufer was kept off the scoresheet, despite a few goalscoring opportunities.
Nearly three months would pass until New Zealand’s first group stage fixture, which took place in Tel Aviv, Israel. With precious little to go on regarding information about this game, the personnel which took to the Ramat Gan Stadium pitch would suggest either a 4-5-1 or 4-4-2 formation, depending on where Wynton Rufer played: up top or (attacking) wide in midfield. They lost to a single, early goal, and were chasing already from the off.
Matters hardly improved for the All Whites following their trip across the Tasman Sea to face neighbours Australia. A performance which did not mirror what manager Adshead wanted to see from his teams ended in a sorry 4-1 defeat. The margin of loss could have been even greater. The three man central defensive line did not work optimally, but their main problem appeared to be in central midfield, where they could not live with the Socceroos, and certainly not once Danny Halligan had gone off with injury towards the end of the first half. A headed consolation goal by substitute Malcolm Dunford was one of very few highlights on a disappointing afternoon in Sydney.
A three week break between the away fixture and the subsequent home return leg seemed to have done the Kiwis a world of good. They had hatched a plan of sitting back and soaking up whatever Australia could throw at them, which, in earnest, was not a whole lot. The visitors in Auckland had battled well two weeks earlier to earn a draw in Israel, and were emerging as favourites to win the group. Another headed goal by Dunford set the hosts on their way in the first half, though, and with a bleak Socceroos team never being able to truly put All Whites ‘keeper Clint Gosling to the test, an early second half opportunity through Graham Arnold apart, Billy Wright could put the icing on the cake with his deliciously curled effort right into the top corner. It was a very welcome win, but one which possibly had come too late for New Zealand to have an impact on the final standings.
With renewed belief, the New Zealanders went about their final fixture in confident mood, but they received a set-back when Ronny Rosenthal flicked a throughball past Gosling and into the back of the net. A quick equalizer saw to that optimism was soon restored, and for the second game running Billy Wright put his signature to a goal. The wide right man struck it firmly with his right boot for the leveller. Later in the half, it was once again that unlikely man to head home: Malcolm Dunford, a central defender turned midfielder since his arrival as a substitute in Sydney, connected with stand-in right-back Halligan’s cross for 2-1. A terrific attack had been rewarded with a splendid goal. Like their counterparts, though, they could only hold on to the lead for a couple of minutes. In a game where the Kiwis had needed to win by at least three to stand a chance of finishing top of the group, they wasted a few second half opportunities, and once again the exemplary Dunford was in the thick of the action. It petered out with a four goals shared scoreline, though, and New Zealand were finished. Barring a huge home loss for the Australians in the final game, the All Whites would prop up the table in the final standings.
So – what were New Zealand’s qualification campaign highlights? Certainly the emergence of Malcolm Dunford as a goalscorer. He would finish his international career with five goals from 41 appearances. Three of these came in successive matches towards the end of this qualification: A trio of headers. There was also those two Billy Wright strikes. The forward, who was deployed as a wide right midfielder here, was something of a controversial figure, often having rows with his coaches at club level, and due to this, he had a bit of a journey man tag.
New Zealand’s arguably most successful football export had been Wynton Rufer. With a Swiss father, he was a 21 year old by the time he arrived in Switzerland in 1982. Now, in 1989, he was an established star player with leading club Grasshoppers. Deployed either as an attacking midfielder or as a forward, he would’ve been an asset to many a national team, and certainly also to New Zealand’s. However, he had been failing to come to an agreement with the country’s FA about terms regarding his travel payment, and so only turned out for two of New Zealand’s six qualifiers. In Switzerland also played his older brother Shane, a defender. He had resided in Europe for about the same amount of time as his sibling, but despite being a sound player, he was not of the same status as Wynton. Still, had he declared himself available to Adshead and Taylor’s regime, he most likely would’ve been an asset.
Another player whom we never got to see during the Italia ’90 qualification, was midfielder Michael McGarry. Apparently gifted above average in terms of New Zealand footballers, it is not known to us why he did not feature in either of John Adshead’s qualification squads. He’d made his bow internationally in 1986, and would go on to win a total of 54 caps, scoring 12 goals in the process. Perhaps did he not get along with the manager. Perhaps were there other reasons for his absence. He was back in the fold again for New Zealand’s first (and unofficial) international in 1990, during a tournament in Thailand, where the Kiwis met club sides from the Soviet Union, South Korea and North Korea.
Goalkeeper Clint Gosling had a decent, if varying, campaign. Stalwart defender Ricki Herbert brought invaluable experience from having performed in an actual World Cup, while some of the more unfashionable players, like tigerish midfield man Robbie Ironside and wide left midfielder Noel Barkley proved valuable. The Kiwis had a few British born players in their ranks: Gosling, Barkley, left-sided player Tommy Mason, midfielder Chris Riley, as well as wing man Tony Levy. Even manager John Adshead himself was born in England. He would leave his post as the New Zealand supremo after the failure to win the group, though he would still continue coaching for another good 15 years.
Number of players used: 20
Number of players including unused substitutes: 21
Ever-presents (540 mins): Clint Gosling and Ricki Herbert
Leading goalscorer: Darren McClennan and Billy Wright, both 4
Yellow/red cards: 8/0
– game by game
|Player||Chinese Taipei (‘a’)||Chinese Taipei (h)||Israel (a)||Australia (a)||Australia (h)||Israel (h)||Apps||Mins|
(Off the record: Among the eight players obtaining a rating for just two matches, Robert Ironside led the way with an ‘average’ of 7,15)
Top three individual ratings:
1 Robert Ironside 7,6 v Australia (h)
2Malcolm Dunford 7,4 v Australia (h)
Gary Lund 7,4 v Australia (h)
John Adshead had just held the manager’s position in a temporary capacity, and once the qualification was through, he left the job. The New Zealand FA soon replaced him with a gentleman named Ian Marshall. Their only three international matches in the wake of the qualification and prior to Italia ’90 were in the ‘King’s Cup’ tournament held in Thailand in January/February (1990). New Zealand were up against three club sides, and obviously, these matches did not count as official:
30/1: Rotor Volgograd (Soviet Union) 1-2 (de Jong)
3/2: Yukong Elephants (South Korea) 0-3
7/2: Pyongyang (North Korea) 2-3 (de Jong, Carville)
Five players who had taken part in their final World Cup qualifier started the game against the Soviet team: Danny Halligan, Robert Ironside, Noel Barkley, Malcolm Dunford and Fred de Jong. For the final loss against the North Korean side, Michael Ridenton had come into the side, so a total of six of the players who had been in action throughout their World Cup qualification had featured in Thailand.