It is so very disappointing that New Zealand got so close to making it through the group stages in the FIFA World Cup. They came so close, but got denied by terrible officiating in the game against Italy, and a mix of average calls and good defence in the Paraguay game. But we need to remember two things. Firstly, this is the second time New Zealand has ever been at a FIFA World Cup. Secondly, this is the first time any of these guys has played at even half this level. Yes, they have played internationals before, but all teams, generally, step up that extra level at the World Cup. New Zealand certainly did. Okay, so Italy didn’t, and so far neither has England. But it doesn’t change the fact that New Zealand has taken the fact they were the at the lowest odds of all countries to even get through to the second stage, and they have told everyone that we aren’t a team to discount. The side does have experience, but it also has quite a few younger faces. A lot of these guys will continue playing and hopefully take us to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
There is not a single player in this New Zealand side who has not deserved to take out this title. They did not leave this world cup as World Champions. However, they did leave it with New Zealand Football gaining a lot of respect internationally, as well as, hopefully, domestically. Football has a huge following in New Zealand, but players seem to stop playing around the age of 12 to start playing rugby. Maybe New Zealand’s successes at the World Cup will show young New Zealanders that playing football is something they might consider. If New Zealand boosts its numbers, we will have more of talent pool, and this will give us huge chances at future World Cups.
I think New Zealand needs to show these footballers the gratitude they deserve. They have played a valiant game, and they have shown the world that we are not to be written off. Maybe we could end up with a Sir Rickie Herbert after this. Or maybe a Sir Mark Paston. I do think those two men deserve something from this country for their service to football in New Zealand – particularly Rickie Herbert.
Tonight, or rather this morning, I am proud to be a New Zealander. I am proud to be a New Zealand football fan.
Well done, All Whites. You have done us all proud.