World Cup playoff means the world
OPINION: Let me keep this brief, because the football will do a lot of the talking this afternoon.
But the World Cup playoff second leg between New Zealand and Peru in Lima will be the biggest game in eight and 35 years respectively for either nation.
For New Zealand it represents a genuine shot at getting back to the World Cup for the first time since 2010. They qualified for that tournament on the back of a nervy 1-0 second leg playoff win over Bahrain in 2009, although that was at home in Wellington that year.
You can forget four years ago when they were pumped 9-3 on aggregate by Mexico. Many thought this year’s contest against world No 10 Peru would go the same way, but this is a much better New Zealand side.
Qualification would fill New Zealand Football’s coffers to the tune of $11m from the prizemoney for just making the World Cup, but the intangible hope is that a new generation of football fans and players would be created by making it back to football’s showpiece event.
Standing in their way is a passionate football nation which hasn’t been to a World Cup since 1982.
A win for Peru would definitely mean a lot more to their country than New Zealand. Some have estimated the potential boost to the Peru economy from World Cup qualification to be more than $1 billion.
So which nation will become the 32nd and final team to book their spot at the 2018 World Cup in Russia? For mine, it’s New Zealand with a Chris Wood winner in a 1-0 triumph, but I’d hardly begrudge a Peruvian his own history-making goal.
More than anything, I’m just looking forward to observing what should be a marvellous spectacle of the greatest game on earth.