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32 Teams in 32 Days: New Zealand
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Country: New Zealand
Nickname: The All Whites
New Zealand is one of the most isolated countries on the planet, an island nation deep in the South-Western Pacific that paradoxically has strong ties to Europe. A constitutional monarchy, it is one of the last major remnants of the former British Empire.
NEW ZEALANDNew Zealand Team Page
World Cup schedule
June 15: vs. Slovakia (Rusternburg)
June 20: vs. Italy (Nelspruit)
June 24: vs. Paraguay (Polokwane)
Ryan Nelsen, Defender
Chris Killen, Forward
Best WC result: 1982 First Round
FIFA World Rank: 79
The country is also sports-mad, and is best known for its dominance in international rugby. The All-Blacks are far and away the most historically successful rugby team on the planet, and their distinctive pre-game ritual, the “haka,” is considered one of sports' treasures. Soccer falls a distant fourth in popularity on the islands -- cricket and horse racing surpass it -- but that is slowly changing with the reintroduction of a professional league in Australia, and the tremendous pride the Kiwis take in their sport.
PAST WORLD CUP SUCCESS: None. In fact, they have yet to win a game in the World Cup, their lone apperance back in 1982 seeing them concede 12 goals in three straight losses. It's worth noting that their best international result in meaningful competition might be their 0-0 draw with Iraq in last year’s Confederation’s Cup. That was their first point gained in three appearances at the warm-up tournament.
REGIONAL SUCCESS: The All Whites dominate Oceania, and are reigning OFC Cup champs. Unfortunately, that means little as Oceania is far and away the weakest FIFA region.
LEAGUE OVERVIEW: New Zealand doesn’t have a top-flight league. Many of the better players play in the A-League. However, there is one A-League club based in New Zealand, Wellington Phoenix, and several of the team’s players ply their trade under Ricki Herbert at the club.
MANAGER: Ricki Herbert, longtime coach of Wellington Phoenix. Some fans may remember him from his days at Wolverhampton, but much of his sporting life has been spent in New Zealand, where he played for several teams in the now-defunct domestic league.
KEY PLAYERS: Captain Ryan Nelsen is the only major international talent the team has. Currently with Blackburn Rovers, the defender should be well-known to American fans from his stint with MLS side D.C. United. Forward Chris Killen was with Celtic until joining Middlebrough this year; he and Shane Smeltz (Gold Coast Utd) will form the attacking tandem. Andrew Boyens should be known to Yanks; he’s with Red Bull. He had a miserable Confederations Cup, and he’s currently riding the NY bench.
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PHOTOS AND VIDEO
FIRST ROUND OPPONENTS: Italy, Paraguay and Slovakia.
HEAD TO HEAD VS. ITALY: New Zealand has played Italy once, a 4-3 loss last year that came right before the Confederations Cup. The match was something of an embarrassment for the Azzurri, who fell behind three times and needed a goal from Vincenzo Iaquinta to escape with the win.
HEAD TO HEAD VS. PARAGUAY: The All Whites have played and lost once to Paraguay, back in 1995 in Santiago, 3-2.
HEAD TO HEAD VS. SLOVAKIA: This will be the first meeting between the two teams.
HOW THEY QUALIFIED: New Zealand won the Oceania/AFC playoff against Bahrain.
PERCENTAGE CHANCE TO PROGRESS: 0%
TO WATCH: Taking a point would be a triumph.
TOMORROW'S TEAM: Algeria