We need to build an­other great fat wall of noise to put off Peru

Weekend Herald - - Football - David Leg­gat

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.

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