We Once Beat a Team From New Caledonia
Posted by Ryan
As far as I can remember, there never has been an unfancied team as New Zealand. They are a massive 2,000-1 on to win the tournament and 1-25 on to not even qualify out of their group consisting of Italy, Paraguay and Slovakia. In reality, the All Whites have no hope at all of even looking like getting a result.
Spain 1982. The only other time New Zealand reached the World Cup Finals. They scraped into the finals by having to play a play off game against China, who had scored the same points and same goal difference as them. They won that match 2-1. The tournament itself wasn’t pretty for the All Whites. They got thrashed 5-2 off Scotland, 3-0 off the Soviet Union and 4-0 from Brazil. None of those teams even made it past the Second Round.
Fast forward to 2009, a potential chance of a lifetime World Cup spot for either New Zealand or Bahrain. The All Whites eased through the ridiculously unchallenging Oceania group featuring Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia, still managing to lose a game to Fiji along the way. Bahrain had finished third in a group featuring the likes of Australia, Japan, Qatar and Uzbekistan, then beating Saudi Arabia in the race for the playoff game against New Zealand. They won on away goals.
Bahrain had in fact been here before, four years ago, losing to a Trinidad and Tobago goal in the second leg. A nation of only 800,000 citizens wanted to be the smallest nation ever to make it to the finals.
The first game was goalless, 0-0 in Bahrain. But the decisive moment and fate came in Wellington, Rory Fallon rose and guided a bullet of a header into the net. They were in. Cue hysterics.
The draw wasn’t kind for New Zealand. Italy, the reigning world champions. Paraguay, a highly capable team who have made it past the group stages twice in three World Cups. And Slovakia, a team which finished above Slovenia. Realistically, the only hopes of points for New Zealand will be against a Slovakian side difficult to judge.
To put it in context, the highest ranked team New Zealand have beat on the way to the World Cup was 69th (Bahrain). Slovakia beat a team 25th (Slovenia), Italy beat a team 39th (Bulgaria) and Paraguay, well they beat the number one team in the world (Brazil, 2-0 if you are wondering).
They simply haven’t been challenged all the way through, they are of a weaker class of international teams, and whilst everyone does love the underdog at these tournaments, you have to wonder if you would prefer other teams in the Asian section to go through who have experience in these tournaments, the Saudi Arabia’s or Iran’s of the world, both teams who could have easily played New Zealand in that playoff game.
I doubt New Zealand’s ability at this level, it was shown in the Confederations Cup when they were comfortably beaten by Spain and South Africa. The standards of the league in New Zealand is simply not of a high standard, and several players in the team come from several teams in that league. Only seven players play in Europe, only two of those (Chris Wood and Ryan Nelsen) play in a world class league.
The important question is should they be allowed in. I don’t think they should be stopped, but I think they must go into a stricter qualifying routine to get to the World Cup. To earn there place. I’m sure the majority of European sides could easily progress to the World Cup following the journey New Zealand have taken to get there. There is talk of moving into the Asian Football Confederation, which for me makes total sense. Then, they will be able to prove their worth against decent opposition, the likes of Australia and South Korea, who regularly make the World Cups.
I don’t intend any disrespect onto Vanuatu or New Caledonia, even New Zealand are several steps up on those. But the World Cup is about the best teams in the world. The best teams need to have the same way of getting through. There is a thought that the likes of Egypt won’t be in South Africa, but New Zealand will.
The 2010 World Cup will be a steep learning curve for the All Whites, I fear that they might find out the hard way when it comes to the match against Italy on June 20th. Insufficient players against some of the best in the world. Its a mismatch if I have ever heard one.