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FIFA Ranking (Apr 10): 78
Previous Appearances: 1 (1982)
Football is not as popular as rugby or cricket in this geographically isolated island nation of 4.3 million people. That is why it is remarkable that 2010 will not be New Zealand’s first World Cup appearance. The All Whites, as the team is known (to distinguish them from rugby’s All Blacks), were there once before, in 1982. After an arduous 90,000-kilometre journey that took the team all over Asia and Oceania, New Zealand qualified for the finals in Spain. New Zealand lost their matches against Scotland, Soviet Union and Brazil, but by that stage history had already been made.
How They Qualified
When compared to the 1982 campaign, the journey to South Africa was relatively straightforward. After winning the Oceania group, New Zealand met Bahrain, Asia’s fifth placed team, in a two leg, do-or-die play-off series. New Zealand prevailed 1-0 over their West Asian opponents.
New Zealand is a physically strong team with a good work ethic. The average height in the squad for the last match against Bahrain was just under 185 cm. New Zealand will be dangerous at set-pieces and will not be easily out-muscled by their opponents. The fact that this will be the first winter World Cup since 1978 will probably suit New Zealand’s playing style.
There is no hiding the fact that New Zealand will not be the most technically gifted team at the finals. Lack of regular competitive international fixtures may also affect performances of the team as a whole. Finally, there is a noticeable lack of depth in the squad.
Ricki Herbert, a former defender, was part of the All Whites team that qualified for the 1982 World Cup. He played in all three matches and went on to become one of New Zealand’s most capped players. Herbert has outwardly an understated manner which masks a person who is deeply passionate about the game - as his animated response to the teams qualification clearly demonstrated. Herbert also coaches the Wellington Phoenix side in the Australian A-League.Star Men
Ryan Nelsen (Blackburn Rovers, England)
|New Zealand’s captain brings a lot of top-class experience to the team. He is a true leader and has a calming and motivating influence on players around him. Playing at the heart of the defence, a lot rests on his shoulder and he may have a very busy World Cup.
Chris Killen (Celtic, Scotland)
|The former Manchester City and Hibernian striker is another player with big match experience. He is not playing as often as he would like at Celtic but there is no doubt that he can get the job done when given the opportunity. Scored two morale boosting goals in the 4-3 loss to Italy earlier in the year.
Leo Bertos (Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand)
|New Zealand’s most creative player. If he can be shut down, New Zealand’s strikers will be largely cut off from the action.
Best Footballing Moment
Needing to beat Saudi Arabia in Riyadh by at least five goals to stay in the hunt for a spot at the 1982 World Cup finals, New Zealand did just that. Remarkably, after going into a 5-0 half-time lead, the All Whites failed to score further goals that would have given them automatic qualification. Instead, a play-off against China was needed.
Off The Pitch
Famous for: Its clean and green image. New Zealand’s spectacular landscapes have been used as a backdrop for a number of big budget films.
Most likely to: Have fans that will enjoy themselves, no matter what the result.
World Cup Objective
New Zealand would have to get extremely fortunate in the draw to entrain any hopes of making the second round. Realistically, if points are taken off one or two teams then this will be deemed a great World Cup.
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