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New Zealand’s Battle On The World Stage

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Contributor:
Adrian Musolino
Adrian Musolino

The New Zealand football team, the All Whites, face their greatest test in the latter half of 2009. At stake is a return to sports biggest stage, the FIFA World Cup, the first time since 1982 with a match up against the fifth best Asian team but first they face the best in the world this June in the Confederations Cup.

As the reigning champions of Oceania, the All Whites gained entry into the Confederations Cup, what will be their third appearance in the competition commonly seen as a precursor to the World Cup pitting the continental champions of around the world against one another. 

As a result the All Whites will be up against and face an uphill battle to attempt to claim their first victory in the competition. They have been drawn against hosts South Africa, Asian champions Iraq and European champions Spain.

It is the match against the Spanish, the first match for the All Whites in the competition on the opening day that looms largest.

The Spanish have rightly been lauded as the best national side going around, the clear leaders in FIFA’s rankings following the breathtaking football they played on the way to claiming Euro 2008.

Compared with the superstars and millionaires who make up the Spanish side, the majority of the All Whites make a modest living playing, in the main, in the Australian A-League.

Ryan Nelsen, a regular for English Premier League side Blackburn Rovers, is the obvious exception although his All Whites career has been blighted by injury.

Can the minnows of the competition punch above their weight?

It’s unlikely. 

The gulf between New Zealand, a country without a professional league and in which other codes, namely Rugby, attract the majority of interest from the nations sporting fans and talented youngsters, and football mad nations in Asia, Europe and elsewhere is wide.

Since Australia left Oceania to pursue greener pastures in the Asian confederation, the All Whites have been left as the benchmark of the confederation.

But in Oceania there is not the competition or the number of games to help assist the development of the All Whites.

Despite the fact they will be favourites to emerge from Oceania World Cup qualification every four years and thus be only two legs away from the World Cup, their task once there is a mighty difficult one.

The fifth placed Asian team, likely to be Bahrain, Saudi Arabia or Iran, will still represent an immense challenge to the Kiwis. 

As the All Whites fight it out on the world stage make sure you cheer on for the underdogs of world football.

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