The All Whites have mostly returned to their heroes' homecomings. Only one of 6 undefeated teams to be eliminated in World Cup history. What a record. Undefeated but unneeded at the business end of the cup.
Watching the round of 16 you can see the energy and purpose that is needed to compete at this level, something that France, Italy, New Zealand, and even England, amongst others lacked. The games are played at a raw pace now, each team 90 minutes from oblivion and scorn, or one goal from glory. It is now a totally different tournament all together, a totally different level, the air as rarified and thin as the high veldt itself.
The winner will be the team that wants it most and has the energy to match the desire, lungs burning as the clock ticks on.
Sentimentally I want Ghana to do well- African soil should equate to African success- if only the 'simplest game' was that simple. I think the World Champion will be the winner of the Germany-Argentina Quarter final. I can't wait to see the stoic nihilism of Joachim Loew versus the haywire exuberance of Maradona, the technical area his own little serfdom, the Fourth official his personal toy and private tormentor. This 80's revival is the final before the final, and whoever triumphs should push past Brazil, who were wasteful against Chile this morning. Sure, they scored three nice goals but their stars were selfish and squandered many more chances. When they come up against a quality side those chances will need to be taken.
The wheat has been seperated, and though the All Whites were chuffed to compete, wheat they are not. Although the land of the long white cloud may now be known internationally for something other than Flight of the Conchords, Jonah Lomu (a tongan!) and Lord of the Rings, now we will be known as a plucky football team who punched above their weight on the greatest stage.
It's business time in South Africa, but the kiwis are needed no more. They can put away the team building exercise t-shirts, and get back to business with the WAGS.