WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert has backtracked on earlier denials he was ready to call it quits after the All Whites’ 2014 World Cup campaign and said on Tuesday he would step down when they are eliminated from contention.
The 52-year-old, who is preparing his team to face Mexico in the second leg of their playoff for a place at the 2014 finals in Brazil, had said earlier in the day no decision had been made about his future.
However, New Zealand Football (NZF) later issued a statement saying Herbert had informed them he would step down from the job he has held since 2005 after the All Whites’ campaign ended.
Mexico won the first leg at the Azteca 5-1 last week and the All Whites must score at least four goals at Wellington Regional Stadium to have any chance of advancing.
Herbert’s tenure with the team will end on Wednesday if they fail to do so.
“On behalf of everyone associated with football in New Zealand, I thank Ricki for his remarkable dedication and his wonderful contribution to our game,” NZF Chairman Frank van Hattum said.
“Naturally, Ricki and the team remain 100 percent focused on the task at hand tomorrow night in Wellington: our attempt to secure a berth at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.”
Van Hattum had already said the organization would likely advertise the All Whites’ job should their World Cup hopes disappear on Wednesday.
Herbert has been in the spotlight over the past week following the Azteca loss and after a bizarre outburst in which he criticized people for not giving him enough credit for taking the team to the 2010 World Cup finals.
Van Hattum, however, praised Herbert for his impact on the team.
“Ricki assumed control of the All Whites at a point of instability for our men’s national team,” van Hattum said.
”From the moment he stepped into the coaching role he began building and shaping a team which became one of the best sides we’ve ever had at a time when competition, in what is a truly global sport, has never been tougher.
”Guiding the team to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa is one of the greatest achievements in the history of New Zealand football and we are still experiencing the benefits of that qualification up and down the country.
“The impact Ricki has had on football in New Zealand is immense and it is testament to the fantastic job he has done that his legacy will be felt across all levels of the game and will have a major influence on the future of our sport.”
Former central defender Herbert has said a review of the team’s preparations would probably need to be undertaken if people now expected the All Whites to be in contention to qualify for every World Cup.
“It has been a tough task for eight years,” Herbert said.
”The timing of the qualifications has always been a little difficult for us. We finished (Oceania qualifying) in March and you don’t play again until the back end of the year.
”The CONCACAF region have gone right up to the death. The Mexican league got closed and an opportunity got created for that group to prepare and play.
”If it is a meaningful outcome to qualify every four years then maybe it does need a more rigorous look at what we require to qualify.
”If we don’t qualify this time then one in two (World Cups), is not a bad percentage given it took us 28 years to go back to a second one.
“Let’s hope it’s not another 28 years.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford