All Whites Looking To Move Forward
New Zealand's All Whites are a team looking to move forward from one of the more grim periods of their proud history. They will attempt to start against its traditional arch rival Australia, when they clash on Friday morning (AEST) at Craven Cottage in London.
By Ben Coonan in London
New Zealand's All Whites are a team looking to move forward from one of the more grim periods of their proud history. 23-years after their sole World Cup appearance in Spain, the All Whites are lamenting an embarrassing 4-2 loss to minnows Vanuatu at the OFC Nations Cup, amongst other catastrophes on the world stage. At under 17 and under 20 levels, New Zealand sides have failed to qualify for the Oceania top two since 2001, with January-s World Youth Championship qualifying tournament in the Solomon Islands particularly insulting, as the Kiwi-s failed to progress to the final four. More recently, New Zealand-s flagship club side - Auckland City, was dumped out of the OFC Club Championships by Tahitian amateurs AS Pirae, although not before giving Australia-s representative Sydney FC a tough match in their opening round clash. They were literally just a minute away from securing a well-earned draw (lost 3-2) with Sydney, who have since then swept all before them. Indeed, Australia-s great sporting rivals from across the Tasman have seen better days and when the All Whites take to the field at Craven Cottage on Friday morning (Australian time), it will be a side intent on rebuilding a shattered football pride. The All Whites have won just three of their past thirteen clashes, all of which being against Oceania opposition. July 2002-s dramatic 1-0 victory over the Socceroos in the OFC Nations Cup final in Auckland remains New Zealand-s greatest recent football feat, which was later overshadowed by a nine match winless streak, including heavy defeats to France (5-0), Japan (3-0) and Iran (3-0). The coach at the helm of the bleakest streak in New Zealand football history - Mick Waitt, has since departed, and has been replaced by an All White legend - Ricki Herbert. Herbert is one of an exclusive group of Kiwi-s to have played at a World Cup finals and showed credible coaching nous when in charge of New Zealand-s Athens Olympic Games hopefuls in January 2004. Tragically for the former NSL star though, his first outing with the senior team has been derailed significantly by an alarming injury toll. First team regulars Ivan Vicelich, Tony Lochhead, Chris Killen and Duncan Oughton are all confirmed absentees from the All Whites first competitive hit out in over a year, so to captain Ryan Nelsen (pictured right above), who has revolutionized New Zealand-s football awareness through his sterling showings in the English Premier League with Blackburn Rovers. Although savagely undermanned, the All Whites are still expected to give Frank Farina-s side a stern test. Leading the charge from the back will be experienced campaigner Danny Hay, who has experience abroad with Leeds United and has since signed with Hyundai A-League outfit the New Zealand Knights. Complementing Hay will be rising star Steven Old, who is one of the brighter prospects to have emerged from the All White camp in recent years.
Old, 19, captained Herbert-s Olympic Games squad, despite being the youngest in the group, and now lines up in the United States College Leagues for St. Johns University. Veteran Che Bunce and home based Chris Wylie are expected to complete the All Whites back four.
In midfield, Herbert will be looking to English lower league pair Leo Bertos (Rochdale) and David Mulligan (Doncaster Rovers), who have made fleeting appearances for the All Whites previously to some effect.
Fellow youth internationals Tim Brown and Michael Wilson are also anticipated to play some role throughout the match. Up front, former Northern Spirit striker Brent Fisher, now with German second tier side Energie Cottbus, will partner a modern Kiwi scoring mainstay in Vaughan Coveny, who currently plies his trade with Victorian Premier League outfit Essendon Royals.
Shane Smeltz, who plays with AFC Wimbledon in the English Conference League, is a possibility to round out a three pronged attack.
There is little question that the Australians, boasting the likes of Cahill, Viduka and Emerton, are fancied to extend the All Whites recent run of misery on the international stage.
As history shows though, the Kiwis seldom hand maximum points to their opponents and Friday morning promises to be no different.
A new chapter in New Zealand football will be written at Craven Cottage this week, with a chance to re-affirm their status as a regional footballing force in the offing. The match can be seen live on SBS from 4.30am (Friday morning) and alternatively there will be a live match update on www.footballaustralia.com.au
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