Skipper Winston Reid says the All Whites have prepared meticulously for today’s all-important meeting with Peru in the first leg of the FIFA World Cup Intercontinental Playoff and are ready for anything the South Americans may throw at them.
Despite the magnitude of the match and the prospect of playing in front of the biggest football crowd ever in New Zealand, Reid and his team mates have been in a relaxed frame of mind and exuded a quiet confidence in the build-up to this afternoon’s game at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
Reid says that’s down to the fact the team’s preparations have been perfectly planned with nothing left to chance.
“The team’s fit and we’ve prepared in the best way possible – we haven’t left a stone unturned and we’re ready for the game,” he says.
“I’d be more nervous if we hadn’t prepared right and done the things we’ve been doing. We’ve been working hard and have done all our homework so that gives me good confidence in the group. It’s just another game in which we have to go out and execute the game plan.”
Coach Anthony Hudson shares the positive mentality of his players and is likewise satisfied that all has been done to pull off what would be one of the most memorable results in the country’s footballing history.
“We said in the beginning we wanted to get to this point with our strongest team and the strongest players available,” he says.
“We set out our plan of creating depth in certain positions because there were certain positions we needed a little more support in and we’ve done that. I think the mentality of the team is strong now, the spirit of the team is good and we’ve seen over the years the team is growing stronger,” he adds.
“I think if we could have said three years ago how we want to look leading in to this week, we’d have had a week like we’ve just had – it’s just been perfect for us.”
Hudson’s side are going up against the tenth-ranked team in the world but he insists he has not had any sleepless nights over the threat of Peru due to his faith in the squad he has at his disposal.
“I’m quite calm, it’s been a really good week of preparation and we’ve been fortunate that we’ve been able to focus on ourselves and the plan. I think what gives me confidence is that we had a really good week of training, we’ve got a really good group of players and I believe in them,” he says.
“In fact, I think I’d probably be in a different place psychologically if I didn’t believe in the players. I trust the players, we’ve got a good plan, we’ve got a good team and everyone understands what we need to do. That has given me a lot of confidence going into this game.”
West Ham United defender Reid is a man well-versed in dealing with pressure after performing each week in the English Premier League for a number of years. He is therefore unlikely to be flustered by the atmosphere created by 38,000 fans at Westpac Stadium this afternoon but admits the winner-takes-all nature of an intercontinental playoff will bring a different feeling.
“It’s going to be difficult because you don’t play one-off games in the Premier League and there’s so much at stake in these two games, our world cup cycle depends on it,” he says.
“But I think you’ll see a team that’s going to be ready, well prepared and we’re going to give them a good game. They’re going to try to come at us but we’re going to be ready for it.”
New Zealand: 1. Stefan Marinovic (GK), 2. Winston Reid (c), 3. Deklan Wynne, 4. Themi Tzimopoulos, 5. Michael Boxall, 6. Bill Tuiloma, 7. Kosta Barbarouses, 8. Michael McGlinchey, 9. Chris Wood, 10. Shane Smeltz, 11. Marco Rojas, 12. Glen Moss (GK), 13. Monty Patterson, 14. Ryan Thomas, 15. Clayton Lewis, 16. Dane Ingham, 17. Jeremy Brockie, 18. Kip Colvey, 19. Rory Fallon, 20. Tommy Smith, 21. Storm Roux, 22. Andrew Durante, 23. Max Crocombe (GK)
Coach: Anthony Hudson
FIFA World Cup – Intercontinental Playoff
New Zealand v Peru
Home Leg: Saturday 11 November, kick off at 4.15pm
Where: Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand
Away Leg: Wednesday 15 November, kick off at 9.15pm (Thursday 16 November 3.15pm NZT)
Where: Estadio Nacional de Lima, Peru