IT’S GAME DAY
Do the All Whites need a World Cup miracle?
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.