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Football: Under-fire New Zealand coach defends tactics

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert has defended his tactics in the All Whites' 5-1 humiliation in Mexico, amid calls for him to step down after eight years in charge.

Herbert has come under fire for negative tactics and selecting aged players for the loss in the first leg of the World Cup qualifier, which has left New Zealand with virtually no chance of progressing to Rio next year.

But the 52-year-old put the blame for the result on uncharacteristically poor defensive performances from his players and indicated he was not willing to go quietly.

In post-match remarks to New Zealand media published Friday, Herbert suggested there was no one capable of replacing him when asked whether he wanted to stay after the second leg in Wellington next week.

"Don't know yet, is there anybody better?" said the coach, whose contract officially ends when the All Whites' World Cup campaign draws to a close.

Herbert took over the All Whites in 2005 and for most of his tenure also coached the Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand's only professional football club.

Undoubtedly the highlight of his time in charge was New Zealand's qualification for the 2010 World Cup, the first time the football minnows had reached the showcase tournament in 28 years.

Herbert's tactics in South Africa were ultra-conservative but gained New Zealand three draws in the group stages, including a 1-1 tie against the-then defending champions Italy.

He said he was tired of senior players, rather than he and his coaching staff, being credited with the team's success in 2010.

"What does annoy (me) is that this group, this management group has never had the full reflection of what was achieved at that World Cup," he said.

Fairfax New Zealand said Herbert risked tarnishing his legacy if he tried to stay on.

"(He is) more interested in seeking credit for past glories instead of living in the now and apologising to New Zealand football fans," it said under the headline "Herbert's lived charmed life, now time to walk".

ns/mfc/mtp

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131114/football-under-fire-new-zealand-coach-defends-tactics