IT’S GAME DAY

Do the All Whites need a World Cup mir­a­cle?

Weekend Herald - - Front Page - Lee Um­bers

West­pac Sta­dium will be “white hot” to­day as a record crowd of about

38,000 foot­ball fans urge on their teams in the World Cup qual­i­fier.

The vast ma­jor­ity will be back­ing the All Whites as they look to se­cure a third-ever spot in the World Cup.

Among those in the cap­i­tal city caul­dron will­ing the All Whites to vic­tory over Peru will be su­per­star Wyn­ton Rufer — just a teen when he helped pro­pel New Zealand to their first World Cup ap­pear­ance in 1982.

Rufer re­calls the at­mos­phere at West­pac Sta­dium when the All Whites beat Bahrain in 2009 to put them into the next year’s World Cup. At 35,179 it was the largest foot­ball crowd in New Zealand foot­ball his­tory, un­til to­day.

“It was amaz­ing. Prob­a­bly half the peo­ple in the sta­dium had never ex­pe­ri­enced that true foot­ball pas­sion,” said the Ocea­nia Foot­baller of the Cen­tury.

“We had the

35,000 in white eight years ago. [I’m] pretty sure that the crowd will turn up with the same sort of pas­sion.”

Rufer, 54, is cer­tain the All Whites can win to­day, in their first leg of the World Cup in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal play­off against South Amer­i­can pow­er­house Peru — ranked 10th in the world.

He sees a sim­i­lar con­nec­tion be­tween to­day’s squad and the “re­ally spe­cial” bond the 1982 play­ers had un­der coach John Ad­shead and cap­tain Steve Sum­ner.

“That’s one of the big bonuses now as well with the All Whites, and what [coach] An­thony Hud­son has done. And there’s just that Kiwi spirit.

“You’ve got the su­per­stars like [Burn­ley striker] Chris Wood and [West Ham de­fender] Win­ston Reid, they come back and it lifts the oth­ers as well to their level.

“It’s bril­liant, the whole sit­u­a­tion for us right now is re­ally per­fect.”

With the away leg five days later in Lima, a win to­day is cru­cial for the

122nd-ranked All Whites.

“We’re lucky that we’ve got enough ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers who know about win­ning,” Rufer said “The good thing is in the build-up to the game all ex­pec­ta­tion is on Peru. It’s re­ally good for us that we’re the un­der­dog. We can win.”

Rufer ex­pects a num­ber of his team­mates from the cam­paign for the 1982 World Cup to be at West­pac to­day.

The gifted striker scored four times in three games for the All Whites in the cam­paign. He also found the net in the de­ci­sive 2-1 play­off win against China to put New Zealand into their first World Cup.

“I was a 19-year-old,” he re­calls. “It was a dream, just hap­pen­ing, un­fold­ing for me.”

Rufer, based in Auck­land, has had a spe­cial foot­ball shirt made for to­day’s game and will be all in white — just like thou­sands of other fans flock­ing into West­pac.

All Whites sup­port­ers group White Noise, which has re­leased a song sheet for chants for to­day, has asked fans to cre­ate a “White Out” in the Welling­ton sta­dium.

“Get a boil­er­suit, hunt out the wed­ding dress, play doc­tor for the night, re­use the ghost cos­tume from Hal­loween,” White Noise’s Tracey Hodge said. “Heck — paint your­self white! It doesn’t mat­ter what, it just mat­ters that it’s white.”

The match will also bring the colour of money to the cap­i­tal. An es­ti­mated $8 mil­lion was ex­pected to be pumped into Welling­ton.

More than 40 per cent of tick­ets have been snapped up from out­side the re­gion.

The 4.15pm kick-off sched­ul­ing was said to work well for cafes, restau­rants and bars.

One Peru­vian cur­rent af­fairs show put the value of World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion at US$1.3 bil­lion ($1.88b) to the coun­try’s econ­omy. Peru have not reached the fi­nals since 1982.

Qual­i­fy­ing for the 2018 World Cup, in Rus­sia, is worth $14m to com­pet­ing teams.

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