With qualification to the showpiece in South Africa and a play-off for the 2010 World Cup already assured, the All Whites coach did not put much stock in the result of their last game, a 2-0 defeat by Fiji, as he was blooding a host of age-group internationals in a dead rubber.
Herbert says New Zealand’s next international – likely to be in March – will mark the start of their preparations for the Confederations Cup and November’s World Cup play-off.
“We’ve ticked off that defeat and are now focusing on building a programme, beginning with the Fifa window on March 28,” he says. “Ideally we’ll look to the Middle East or Asia as that’s what we’ll face later in November.”
Herbert already has reason to smile as the past 18 months have witnessed a remarkable transformation in the career of rising star Shane Smeltz, the German-born New Zealand striker who will be the spearhead of the All Whites squad.
Almost every accolade within his grasp has come the way of Smeltz, culminating earlier this month in him being named the Best Player in the Australian A-League.
Playing for Wellington Phoenix, the A-League’s only New Zealand-based club, he also took home the Golden Boot award with 12 goals in the 21-match season. In doing so, he became the first Kiwi to ever claim such a prize in 30 years of Australian national competition.
Smeltz even managed to scoop the Goal of the Year award for a remarkable solo effort scored against Melbourne Victory.
Phoenix are also guided by Herbert, who holds the distinction of being a member of the New Zealand team that competed at the 1982 Fifa World Cup.