Baze Is Olympics-Bound

Victories On The Board, Now It’s Target Paris

Darren Bazeley (right) with Graham Tayor and another servant of Wolves and Watford, Keith Pritchett.

Darren Bazeley has received a pre-Olympics boost with his New Zealand side winning a tournament close to home.

Under the control of the former Wolves utility man, who took over last year, the All Whites had been locked in a series of win-less but tight games against substantial opposition.

But they have got themselves back in the winning habit in the middle of their winter by triumphing in the Oceania Nations Cup, defeating hosts Vanuatu 3-0 in the final.

With six debutants in a squad containing four players from English clubs and another who is playing in Scotland, they beat the Solomon Islands 3-0 in their opening match and then went one better in defeating Vanuatu.

Tahiti were swept aside 5-0 in the semi-final before Vanuatu – victorious over Fiji in the other last-four game – were overpowered 3-0 in the final. 

Bazeley is busily shaping his squad in the countdown to the prestigous visit to Europe for the Paris Games next month – the latest spectacular in a summer of dramatic sport.

And he said: “With the Olympics being so close to the Nations Cup and pretty much back-to-back tournaments, we have had to take managing players’ club and country commitments into consideration.

“This (in Vanuatu) is a strong All Whites squad, though, and having this time together is a real benefit leading into Paris 2024.”

The 51-year-old had presided over promising performances, if not results, after taking over as national coach, with their appearance in a four-team tournament in Cairo in March typifying their fortunes.

They were beaten by the only goal by hosts Egypt and then lost on penalties to Tunisia following a 0-0 draw in the match to decide the bronze medal.

Before that, New Zealand drew 1-1 away to the Republic of Ireland in November following 2-0 friendly defeats against Australia and Greece in London and Athens respectively.

Words of wisdom for young Kiwis from the man who played 80 games in three seasons at Molineux from 1999.

The Kiwis begin their Olympics programme against Guinea on July 24 in Nice, then face USA in Marseille on the 27th and hosts France, also in Marseille, three days after that.

Squads have to be stocked with under-23 players plus up to three who are over-age.

The national captain is Chris Wood, although it seems unlikely the Nottingham Forest striker will be released to play in the Olympics while the East Midlanders are deep in pre-season training.

He missed the tournament in Vanuatu as the games were scheduled after his wedding was planned for the same time.

Bazeley’s career first took him Down Under when he joined New Zealand Knights early in 2005. Following his three-year Molineux career, he moved to Walsall to link up again with Colin Lee, the manager who had first brought him to the West Midlands.

He became a New Zealand citizen in 2015 and has two more big dates to look forward to in September, with the Kiwis facing Mexico in Pasadena, California, and the USA in Cincinnati.

*As a Watford player, Bazeley picked up a single England under-21 cap when he went on as substitute for Ian Hendon for the last 20 minutes of an end-of-season 2-2 friendly draw against Hungary in Vac in 1992. The squad were managed by Lawrie McMenemy and also included Darren Anderton, Andy Cole and Ray Parlour, Steve Froggatt having pulled out with an ankle injury. 





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