The Country: The All Whites used to battle with Australia for top honours in the Oceania Football Confederation. But with the Socceroos switching the Asia for World Cup qualification, the Kiwis faced less formidable opposition in an attempt to reach the finals for the first time since 1982.
Defender Ryan Nelsen leads a back line that conceded just three goals in the team’s final five Oceania qualifying matches. Weak competition to be sure, but New Zealand showed resolve in shutting out Bahrain for 180 minutes during the two-leg playoff. In the World Cup, however, the All Whites will be out-skilled and outclassed in all three matches. No matter how well Nelsen leads the defense, goalkeeper Mark Paston will be peppered with shots. He saved a penalty kick from Bahrain’s Sayed Mohamed Adnan to help New Zealand preserve its 1-0 victory and the Wellington Phoenix’s backstop will need to use every inch of his 6-foot-5 frame to protect the Kiwis’ net.
In the attack, manager Ricki Herbert will turn to striker Shane Smeltz to lead the way forward. Oceania’s Player of the Year tallied more than half of his team’s goals during the run through qualifying but remains a relative unknown on the world stage because he plies his trade at Gold Coast United of Australia’s A-League. Rory Fallon, the lone goal-scorer against Bahrain, and Chris Killen will team with Smeltz in a three-man frontline. Former Celtic midfielder Michael McGlinchey represented Scotland at the youth levels, but used a FIFA rule change to switch his allegiance to the island nation and appeared in the team’s last three matches. He’ll be just 23 years old when the Cup kicks off and likely won’t start the first match, but look for him to inject pace as the tournament progresses.
Read More: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/soccer/02/10/wcup.newzealand/index.html#ixzz0pF3JEQT1
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Ricki Herbert is one of New Zealand football’s most-famous figures, having been a regular member of the Spain ’82 squad and then becoming one of the first Kiwis to play in England which he did with Wolverhampton Wanderers. After assuming the reins of the national team in 2005, Herbert has for several seasons also been the coach of New Zealand’s only professional club, Wellington Phoenix who compete in the A-League. Well regarded across both New Zealand and Australia, Herbert has formed the All Whites into a solid working unit who produce consistent performances.
Previous FIFA World Cups
New Zealand have appeared on the world stage just once, with the qualification for the 1982 FIFA World Cup™ considered one of the country’s most famous sporting achievements. The squad attained stunning results including away wins in Australia, Saudi Arabia and China over a then-record 15-match qualification campaign. Featuring a teenage Wynton Rufer, who went on to become New Zealand’s most well-known export, the All Whites lost all three matches at Spain ’82, but were not disgraced in a high-quality group featuring Brazil, Soviet Union and Scotland.
• Coach Ricki Herbert is set to claim the rare honour of featuring at the FIFA World Cup as a player and as a coach in the nation’s only two FIFA World Cup appearances.
• New Zealand are the second consecutive Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) member to qualify for the FIFA World Cup after Australia achieved the same feat in 2006.