As we all know, the first World Cup on African soil to take place in South Africa next year. This big milestone is shared as well with a relatively smaller milestone, Australia and New Zealand at the World cup at the same time. This is attributed mainly to Oceania’s painfully tough qualifying period, with the winner of it gaining only a continental playoff against usually an Asian or South American side.
New Zealand’s journey takes a similar turn of events to Australia’s four years ago. Despite no South American opposition, and agonizing penalty shootout, the similarities are blatantly obvious for all to see. A two legged playoff against a team pushing for qualification almost as much as the Kiwi’s, it all came down to a home leg played in front of a capacity crowd. The win sparking joyous celebrations in the streets, almost amounting to those of a World Cup winning nation. All that’s left for the small island nation is a complete national competition overhaul, with former Manchester United players joining the competition!
It’s been 28 years since New Zealand’s last world Cup appearance (Spain 1982), as opposed to Australia’s 32 years. Of course, the major similarity is the group draw. Four years ago, Australia’s group draw pitted the Socceroos against previous winner, Brazil. This time around, New Zealand is pitted against previous winner Italy. As with Australia last time, New Zealand’s tag as underdogs can work to their advantage, flying them under the radar, maybe even to the Round of 16. Of course, as the trans-Tasman rivalry goes, if New Zealand manage to go further than the Socceroos, we Aussies will never hear the end of it.
Nation by Nation Preview
Coming soon, the All-Whites and Socceroos likely squads predicted, and detailed match friendly reviews.
Anyone willing to write for Soccerlens Australia, a new section of the site, email me on m_turner94[at]live.com.au.