Liberato Cacace is the key figure as the All Whites take on Costa Rica in a one-off World Cup qualifier

Intercontinental qualifiers for the World Cup: All Whites v Costa Rica

Where: Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Doha, Qatar; When: Wednesday, June 15, 6 a.m. [NZ time]

Live: Sky Sport 7, SENZ, live updates on Things

Liberato Cacace was central to the All Whites' best three chances in their friendly against Peru and will be the key figure in their World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica.

Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Liberato Cacace was central to the All Whites’ best three chances in their friendly against Peru and will be the key figure in their World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica.

As the All Whites took their time to smash Tahiti in their Oceania World Cup qualifying semi-final in March, it was left winger Liberato Cacace who burst into the box to finally put the ball in the back of the net.

And when they faced Peru in an intense friendly last weekend, it was Cacace who was involved in all three of their real chances, ruling out any jitters.

He moved forward to help set up their first, a long-range attempt by Alex Greive. He then sent a perfect cross for Ben Waine to head home, only for the offside flag to be properly raised. He then took matters into his own hands, but sent his shot directly at the keeper.

Cacace is only 21, but after a season where he started living his dream of playing in Italy’s Serie A for Empoli, he will be the key figure as the All Whites look to beat Costa Rica in their FIFA Cup. single world. qualifiers in Qatar [kickoff 6am Wednesday NZ time].

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Whether rolling down the left flank and getting behind to deliver crosses, or rushing into midfield to create overloads, he is poised to be a focal point as the Allies attack Whites, his importance has increased in the absence of midfielders Sarpreet Singh and Ryan Thomas. .

The All Whites’ most creative outings under coach Danny Hay came with Singh featuring against Curacao and Gambia late last year, and his use of three centre-backs and wingers – a system that gives more freedom in Cacace – is partly a consequence of not having the best playmaker in the country, who is currently injured.

The combination of Cacace with whoever starts at left centre-back, most likely one of Tommy Smith or Nando Pijnaker, will be important, as will the one with Matt Garbett, who is expected to start on the left of a midfield trio after an exceptional performance against Peru. .

The All Whites have scored just once in their last 300 minutes of action against sides outside Oceania – a Chris Wood penalty in their 3-1 loss to Jordan in January which was won by Cacace’s understudy that day, Francis de Vries.

Costa Rica aren’t as big as the All Whites’ previous opponents Peru in 2017 or Mexico were in 2013, especially since this intercontinental playoff is a draw at a neutral, air-conditioned venue rather only at home. -case away.

It means the All Whites are now closer to the World Cup than they have been since leaving South Africa in 2010, after finishing unbeaten with draws against Slovakia, ‘Italy and Paraguay on their second appearance in the match’s showpiece event.

But they will have to pull off the upset to qualify for a third time, 40 years after their first appearance in 1982. It’s a more difficult last step than the one they took then, against China, or 28 years later, against Bahrain.

Costa Rica come into this game with a strong defensive record, having conceded just eight times in 14 North and Central America and Caribbean qualifiers, while continuing a seven-game unbeaten streak to finish fourth in their region and qualify for the playoffs. Their goalkeeper, Keylor Navas, is world class, a three-time UEFA Champions League winner with Spanish giants Real Madrid.

A big question that won’t be answered until kick-off is the nature of Costa Rica’s approach. In their unbeaten run to complete qualifying, they conceded plenty of possession and took advantage of limited chances, hitting counters and set pieces for narrow wins.

Will they be more assertive against New Zealand? The rest of the playoffs will go down depending on whether the answer is yes or no.

All Whites v Costa Rica – World Cup Qualifiers

TAB odds (to qualify): Costa Rica $1.27, all whites $3.55

all white

Guardians: Matthew Gould, Stefan Marinovic, Oli Sail

Defenders: Michael Boxall, Liberato Cacace, Francis de Vries, Dane Ingham, Niko Kirwan, Tim Payne, Nando Pijnaker, Winston Reid, Tommy Smith, Bill Tuiloma

Midfielders: Joe Bell, Matt Garbett, Elijah Just, Clayton Lewis, Marco Rojas, Marko Stamenic

Forwards: Kosta Barbarouses, Joey Champness, Alex Greive, Callum McCowatt, Logan Rogerson, Ben Waine, Chris Wood

Last five games: 0-0 v Oman, 1-0 loss v Peru, 5-0 win v Solomon Islands, 1-0 win v Tahiti, 7-1 win v New Caledonia

NZ SOCCER

The All Whites trained in Marbella, southern Spain, ahead of their friendlies against Peru and Oman and their World Cup qualifiers against Peru.

Costa Rica

Guardians: Aaron Cruz, Leonel Moreira, Keylor Navas

Defenders: Francisco Calvo, Daniel Chacón, Óscar Duarte, Keysher Fuller, Ian Lawrence, Carlos Martinez, Bryan Oviedo, Juan Pablo Vargas, Kendall Waston

Midfielders: Brandon Aguilera, Jewison Bennette, Celso Borges, Orlando Galo, Carlos Mora, Bryan Ruiz, Eltsine Tejada, Gerson Torres

Forwards: Joel Campbell, Anthony Contreras, Johan Venegas

Last five games: 2-0 win against Martinique, 2-0 loss in Panama, 2-0 victory against USA, 2-1 victory in El Salvador, 1-0 victory against Canada

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