New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert must shoulder the blame for the All Whites' humbling third place in the Oceania Nations Cup (ONC), local media said Monday.
The New Zealanders went into the tournament as heavy favourites against unfancied Pacific island opponents but wilted in the Solomon Islands' heat, going down 2-0 to New Caledonia in the semi-finals.
While they salvaged some pride with a 4-3 win over the host nation in the third-place play-off, the Dominion Post newspaper said the team's lacklustre campaign was a major blow to New Zealand football's credibility.
"The players are far from blameless but the buck stops with the coach in elite sport and... this was an embarrassing result for professionals against amateurs," it said.
The result cost New Zealand a spot at next year's Confederations Cup but, by making the top four, the team retains a chance of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The New Zealand Herald said further failure against Pacific island opposition teams could not be tolerated and would cost Herbert his job.
The newspaper said he could not repeat the mistakes made in Honiara.
"It would be argued a number of things went wrong, ranging from the wrong preparation, to wrong tactics and not enough attention placed on the opposition," it said.
The Dominion Post questioned whether Herbert could continue to hold dual coaching roles in charge of both the national side and A-League team the Wellington Phoenix.
"While Herbert has done two jobs adequately for six years now, can he really look himself in the mirror and say he's fully doing justice to both roles?" it said.
"The idea of coaching a national football team as well as a professional club would seem preposterous to most countries."