So close, and yet …
No, it’s too early to think in platitudes. That’s for later, to explain what happened. Right now, the only thought in your head, if you’re an All White, is that you’re going to put your heart and soul on display this Saturday to get New Zealand to the 2006 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
A 0-0 draw versus Bahrain a month ago means that New Zealand is closer to the World Cup than they’ve been since their only Finals appearance in 1982. For the return leg this Saturday in Wellington, it is hoped that the weather will benefit the home side, though current forecasts expect a slightly warmer day with no rain. Judging from ticket sales, the All Whites should at least have a strong partisan crowd in the Cake Tin.
Both teams will be looking to score, as a 0-0 draw would mean penalties and I can’t imagine either team feels confident enough of the outcome when it comes to spot kicks. Still, don’t expect either squad to come out firing in the first half. World Cup playoffs tend to be low-scoring affairs for a reason. Look for a tentative beginning for both teams, with the All Whites trying to retain possession and Bahrain looking to cut off any passing lanes and counterattack in small groups.