We need to build another great fat wall of noise to put off Peru
The All Whites’ win over Bahrain to qualify for the 2010 Fifa World Cup remains one of the great New Zealand sporting occasions. It was on November 14 — three days times eight years ago — and begs the question, can history repeat at the same venue in Wellington against Peru today.
There’s a couple of big differences; this is the first leg of the intercontinental playoff for a chance to get to Russia next year; Bahrain was the second leg after a goalless draw in the first leg in Manama.
And Peru aren’t Bahrain.
Lima awaits next week, but so much of New Zealand’s hopes hinge on today.
One reason the Bahrain match remains vivid in the memory is the noise. A great fat wall of it.
Check out YouTube for Rory Fallon’s winning header two minutes before halftime, then goalkeeper Mark Paston’s penalty save five minutes after the interval.
Compare the roars. If you don’t get a tingle in the spine watching them, particularly the goal, you’re not alive.
Peru, football’s world No 10, haven’t been to the finals since 1982. They’re a quality side. The All Whites are ranked No 122. So 10 versus 122. No price, right?
Well ordinarily you might say so, but here’s the thing about football: the underdog always has a chance.
This isn’t rugby where generally 15 players have to be well off their game at the same time as their lowly opposition must collectively grow another couple of legs. There has to be a group failure.
In football, over 90 minutes, the weaker team will invariably get a chance to score. A wonky bounce, mistimed clearance, goalkeeping error, a booming 25m strike, whatever.
The key though is that chance, or chances, must be taken. There won’t be many for the All Whites today.
Now throw in the venue, the crowd, the passion and you have to give the All Whites a fighter’s chance of getting a reasonable result.
When they head to Lima — and encounter distractions from the time they land in the city the like of which the players probably haven’t seen before — they must be able to take something into the second leg.
A win, improbable as it may seem, would be a sensational return; a draw at least would give them something to work with.
The referee is an American Mark Geiger, who officiated at the 2014 finals, a former mathematics teacher from New Jersey. What part might he play in the game?
One of the reasons people love watching sport is the chance of seeing something to thrill the senses. Call it the possibility of the unexpected. You watch because you want to be stirred.
Can the All Whites stir the nation today? It’s a two-horse race. The odds are stacked against them but they have a change. That’ll do for now.