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Monday, May 24, 2010

A Blind Date with Destiny

It is a Crowded House in Melbourne tonight, as Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek and All Whites Gaffer Ricki Herbert lay their cards on the table in the first transtasman football match in five years, a 'friendly' warm up for the World Cup Finals. Apart from the 60,000 or so fans at the MCG and the hundreds of thousands watching across Australia and Enzed this game will be appointment viewing in Paraguay, Serbia, Ghana, Germany, Slovakia, the distant lands which got drawn in the same pools as the Anzacs back in December

It is only when you consider this fact that you realise how big the World Cup is for New Zealand sport, the World Cup, a world event in deed as in name.

There is probably not much that Serbia, Ghana and Germany wouldn't already know about Australia, but New Zealand's foes are probably a bit more in the dark about the team from football's hinterland since we have been international wallflowers for many years. The reclusive North Koreans are probably the only other World Cup team with more mystique than New Zealand.

For us minnows the World Cup is indeed a blind date with destiny. A date that starts tonight with us courting our old suitors Australia- and I do mean old. As Ryan Nelsen pointed out its practically a may-to december romance, Austalia's golden generation of premiership stars will probably not be in action Four years time, but Fallon, Smeltz, Moss, Reid, Smith and Co. will be hitting their straps in 2014.

So tonight is as good a measure as any ahead of the World Cup as to how far New Zealand has come, and how far we have to go.

Some have called Herbert's plan to field the same starting 11 which lined up against Bahrain in Manamana as unadventeruous. But tonight is not a time for risk taking, it is a chance to consolidate the partnerships across the park, a chance to test our best against a very capable opponent in an intense caldera of rivalry. Besides, with a relaxed policy towards substitutes in this Fifa canctioned friendly Herbert has plenty of scope to blood his newbies, Aaron Clapham, Winston Reid and Tommy Smith.

So with just over 2 hours to kick off tension is building in the streets of Melbourne, as much in the lounges and pubs of Wellington. Are they fretting as much in Ascuncion, Berlin or Accra? We'll see in 4 hours time.

To get us across the line here is the great transtasman cultural collaboration with a song dedicated to those going a little bit stir crazy:

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