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White Is The New Black

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
"White noise" supporters get behind the New Zealand All Whites soccer team. Pic: NZPA
"White noise" supporters get behind the New Zealand All Whites soccer team. Pic: NZPA

By Amelia Romanos of NZPA

Wellington, Nov 15 NZPA - "White is the new black". These words on Rory Fallon's t-shirt last night summed up the new mood of New Zealand sport.

With a stunning 1-0 win over Bahrain in front of over 35,000 fans clad mainly in white clothing at Wellington's Westpac stadium last night, New Zealand claimed a place in the World Cup soccer finals for the first time in 27 years.

For the first time ever at the stadium, a sell-out crowd of supporters chanted "All Whites, All Whites" at an international test, rather than "All Blacks, All Blacks", as New Zealand held on for victory.

A glowing Fallon, who headed the winning goal on the tick of halftime, spoke to media after the game wearing the t-shirt that so appropriately described the feeling behind the match.

"I just thought, `this is our greatest opportunity to do this, and we can really do something good for the game, really change things in New Zealand'," Fallon said.

The 27-year-old striker said the team were not trying to take over from rugby, but that it was time for soccer to take the big stage too.

"Rugby's rugby and football's football, we're not trying to take over. We just want a chance to be in the headlines," he said.

"It's been a bad cloud over New Zealand football for many years, and for me that's why I tried to escape New Zealand, because it was just too full of rugby.

"Don't get me wrong -- I love rugby. But sometimes we need a share of the limelight and hopefully tonight we can get some."

In a relatively free-flowing game, it came down to two defining moments.

In the dying minutes of the first half, Fallon put New Zealand ahead with a crucial goal after heading home a pinpoint corner kick from Leo Bertos.

Bahrain returned from the break with renewed vigour, and were awarded a controversial penalty when Tony Lochhead brought down Abdulla Omar.

However, goalkeeper Mark Paston lifted local hopes when he dived to his right and smothered Sayed Mohamed's shot.

In a situation where away goals counted for double, Paston's moment of greatness was enough to lift the All Whites, who spent the second half defending intently while looking for a breakaway second goal.

The final 1-0 scoreline, coming on top of the 0-0 draw in the first leg in Bahrain last month, was enough for New Zealand, with a world ranking of just 83, to book a place in the World Cup finals in South Africa next year.

Coach Ricki Herbert, who was a defender in the famous 1982 team, said that going into the halftime break, with Bahrain still just one goal away from the World Cup finals, his team were determined not to let go.

"We were still in that balance, we were still in a position to win the game," he said.

"A side like they are, they'll catch you on the counter and things might have looked a little bit different."

Herbert said self-belief pulled his team through.

"It's about a group who believed and have never stopped believing -- and their dream continues," he said.

"I've been very honest with everybody about the quality of this team. We've all worked hard, we all backed the system that we truly believed was good enough to win it and they've gone and done it.

"These boys are going to go to a World Cup and it'll be a dream. They'll be iconic, the public will embrace them -- they'll be remembered as the side to achieve it again."


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