Unbeaten All Whites triumph over the odds
15 Jul 2010
The undefeated All Whites have achieved their second-highest world football ranking ever - sitting at no. 54 after their stunning three-draw run at the FIFA World Cup.
And, in the football underdog story of the year, the All Whites have earned
the title of the only unbeaten team at the World Cup - despite not
making it past the pool stage in South Africa.
New Zealand’s national football team was ranked 78th in the world before entering football's most prestigious competition, and has now risen 24 positions.
World Cup winner Spain is at the top of the table. Italy, the defending champions from the 2006 FIFA World Cup, has fallen to 11th position after finishing last in group F - below the unbeaten All Whites.
All the other 31 teams competing for the prestigious football trophy suffered defeat, including ultimate champions Spain, which lost 1-0 to Switzerland during pool play.
Ticker tape parade
Wellington, the home of football in New Zealand, is planning a big ticker tape parade to welcome home the unbeaten All Whites next Wednesday (21.07.2010).
The parade is part of a bigger football celebration in New Zealand’s capital, which is also home to the Wellington Phoenix - the country’s only premier league football team. The Phoenix will host Argentine club Boca Juniors for a game at the Wellington Stadium on 23 July.
Many of the All Whites, including coach Ricki Herbert, as well as New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast, will be in attendance.
The parade will start at the Beehive - New Zealand’s famous Parliament building and an architectural wonder - and travel through the downtown city to Civic Square.
Triumph over odds
The 2010 FIFA World Cup was significant for New Zealand’s All Whites on several scores.
It was only the second time in history that the All Whites had played in the international competition. And, the All Whites scored their first ever point at the World Cup when fullback Winston Reid scored against Slovakia.
The All Whites drew 1-1 against both Slovakia and Italy - the Cup’s defending champions who went home early after suffering defeat at the hands of Paraguay.
Meanwhile the All Whites went home with their heads held high - undefeated after drawing 0-0 against Paraguay who sit at 73 positions above in world ranking order.
The New Zealand side’s three-draw run exceeded all expectations as the last time the team qualified for the finals - in Spain 28 years ago - they went home after racking up three losses.
Kiwi captain Ryan Nelsen - who had been named before the World Cup as the 2010 men's player of the year in the NZ Football Awards - has been hailed as a national hero for leading the All Whites side through the World Cup.
International media has also recognised the Nelsen’s achievements.
He was named as one of the ‘heroes’ of the competition in a 'Heroes and Villains' list compiled by international news agency Reuters - and also named in a 'Football World Cup Best XI' list picked by US sporting channel ESPN.
The Reuters list said of Nelsen’s team leadership: "Many questioned New Zealand’s right to be at the World Cup after they qualified from a group containing Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu before beating Bahrain in a two-legged playoff but Nelsen led them masterfully at the finals.
"They took a shock lead against holders Italy in the group stage and Nelsen was at the centre of the battling display as they held their illustrious opponents to a highly creditable draw."
The Sunday Times in Britain called New Zealand's game against Italy "the match of the World Cup", praising the team's unbeaten record and their attitude.
Nelsen and goalkeeper Mark Paston were also listed twice each in the top 10 performances at the World Cup by the Guardian newspaper.
And All Whites coach Ricki Herbert - coach of the year in the 2010 NZ Football Awards - has announced that he has resisted overseas offers and will be staying on in New Zealand as coach of the country's only professional team the Wellington Phoenix.
Herbert is currently also negotiating with Football New Zealand regarding his position as national coach.
Hope for next generation
The All Whites’ World Cup fairytale has inspired the next generation of young Kiwi footballers.
Squad members received heroes’ welcomes by the nation upon their return to New Zealand.
Southland Football’s regional development officer Kenny Cresswell says the number of enquiries from Kiwis interested in picking up football has definitely increased.
"Everyone’s been talking about football. There’s been a lot of interest about it around town and the whole World Cup."
Cresswell is a former team-mate of All Whites coach Ricki Herbert and was part of the side that went to the 1982 World Cup.
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