Team Profile: New Zealand
- Coach: Ricki Herbert
- Goalkeepers: James Bannatyne (Team Wellington), Glen Moss (Melbourne Victory/Australia), Mark Paston (Wellington Phoenix)
- Defenders: Andy Boyens (New York Red Bulls/USA), Tony Lochhead (Wellington Phoenix), David Mulligan (unattached), Ryan Nelsen (Blackburn Rovers/England), Winston Reid (FC Midtjylland/Denmark), Ben Sigmund (Wellington Phoenix), Tommy Smith (Ipswich Town/England), Ivan Vicelich (Auckland City)
- Midfielders: Andy Barron (Team Wellington), Leo Bertos (Wellington Phoenix), Tim Brown (Wellington Phoenix), Jeremy Christie (FC Tampa Bay Rowdies/USA), Aaron Clapham (Canterbury United), Simon Elliott (unattached), Michael McGlinchey (Motherwell/Scotland)
- Forwards: Jeremy Brockie (Newcastle Jets/Australia), Rory Fallon (Plymouth Argyle/England), Chris Killen (Middlesbrough/England), Shane Smeltz (Gold Coast United/Australia), Chris Wood (West Bromwich Albion/England)
Style of play: New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert has a tough tactical decision to make. Does he stick with the ultra-defensive 5-2-3 formation that he used to great effect in the World Cup qualifiers against Bahrain? Or does he revert to the more traditional 4-4-2 set-up that he tends to use? Chances are he'll go with the former, a system that forces his team to defend first and stifle the opposition. New Zealand will seek out its scoring chances on the counterattack when it can (with midfielder Leo Bertos pushing the ball to forwards Shane Smeltz and Chris Killen) and on set pieces (making use of their size inside the box). If the team is trailing late and in need of goals, look for Herbert to switch to a 4-3-3 line-up, with Rory Fallon playing alongside Smeltz and Killen.
1st round matches:
- June 15 vs. Slovakia in Rustenburg
- June 20 vs. Italy in Nelspruit
- June 24 vs. Paraguay in Polokwane
Projected starting lineup (4-4-2): (GK) Mark Paston - (D) Tony Lochhead, Ryan Nelsen, Ivan Vicelich, Ben Sigmund - (M), Leo Bertos, Simon Elliott, Tim Brown, Michael McGlinchey - (F) Shane Smeltz, Chris Killen
- Confidence: The All Whites enter the tournament with a great deal of confidence, having qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1982. Coach Ricki Herbert, a key member of the '82 team, has revitalized the Kiwis since taking over the reins in 2005, including a steady climb up the FIFA world rankings.
- Smeltz-Killen partnership: Forwards Chris Killen and Shane Smeltz give the All Whites a lethal one-two scoring punch, having combined for over 50 goals for the national team. Smeltz is a two-time Oceania player of the year, and was the top scorer in the Australian A-League this past season, while Killen has experience from playing with pro clubs in England and Scotland.
- Underdog factor: Few critics expect New Zealand to even make it out for the first round. This will allow the underdog Kiwis to compete at the tournament free of pressure and expectations, and eager to prove everybody wrong.
- Overall depth: The simple truth is that New Zealand lacks world-class players who make their living in the world's top leagues - the squad includes five semi-professionals and two unattached players. Coach Herbert will be hard-pressed to field a first-team that can be competitive.
- Tough group: The draw was far from kind for the Kiwis, as they face an uphill battle to get out of a first-round group that includes Italy (the defending champions), Slovakia (an up-and-coming team in European soccer) and Paraguay (coming off a strong showing in the South American qualifiers).
- History: New Zealand's track record in FIFA competitions leaves a lot to be desired. The All Whites crashed out of the 1999, 2003 and 2009 Confederations Cup in the first round (losing eight of nine games and being outscored 24-2) and last qualified for the World Cup in 1982 (when they went home after three straight losses).
Players to watch:
- Ryan Nelsen - New Zealand's captain holds the defence together and has a wealth of experience gained from his tenure with Blackburn Rovers in the English Premiership.
- Shane Smeltz - Easily New Zealand's most dangerous player, the star striker is a goal-machine (he scored eight times in the All Whites' World Cup qualifying campaign) and has established himself as one of the best players in the emerging Australian A-League.
- Chris Wood - Still only a teenager, Wood is a tall and physical forward who uses his size to his advantage in his role as a target man.
Key injuries/squad omissions: Midfielder Aaron Clapham, a former U-20 international, was a bit of a surprise inclusion, as was defender Winston Reid - both had not been capped by New Zealand when coach Ricki Herbert named his 23-man squad in early May. Other notable inclusions include defender David Mulligan (who was released by his pro club, Wellington Phoenix, in April) and midfielder Jeremy Christie (who plays for FC Tampa Bay Rowdies). In total, all but one of the 18 players from New Zealand's decisive World Cup qualifying win against Bahrain last October will be making the trip to South Africa - Aaron Scott is the odd man out, as Herbert decided to go with Tommy Smith instead.
Prognosis: First-round exit. Let's be honest - New Zealand doesn't deserve to be at the World Cup. The All Whites only won the Oceania qualifying section because historical rival Australia now competes in Asia. The Kiwis lack quality players and have a serious depth problem, as evidenced by their dismal showing at last year's Confederations Cup. Anything other than a last-place finish in Group F would be a miracle, so expect the Islanders to go home after three consecutive losses.
ROAD TO SOUTH AFRICA
- Current FIFA ranking: #78
- Qualification route: New Zealand cruised to first place in the final round of the Oceania qualifiers, easily winning the group with five wins in six games (its only loss, against Fiji, came in its last match when it had already wrapped up the group). New Zealand then played Bahrain, the fifth-place team from the Asian qualifiers, in a two-game playoff series to book their trip to South Africa.
- Key to qualification: A pretty easy qualifying route didn't hurt. With Australia now competing in Asia, New Zealand enjoyed a worry-free romp through the Oceania qualifiers before meeting Bahrain in the do-or-die playoffs.
- Crucial result: A 1-0 win over Bahrain (Nov. 14, 2009, in Wellington) in the finale of their two-game playoff series allowed the All Whites to clinch a World Cup berth for the first time in 28 years.
- Qualifying record: 8 games played, 6 wins, 1 draw, 1 loss
- Goals for: 15
- Goals against: 5
- Top goal-scorer in qualifying: Shane Smeltz (8)
Qualifying results: (home team listed first)
- Oct. 17, 2007 - Fiji 0, New Zealand 2
- Nov. 17, 2007 - Vanuatu 1, New Zealand 2
- Nov. 21, 2007 - New Zealand 4, Vanuatu 1
- Sept. 6, 2008 - New Caledonia 1, New Zealand 3
- Sept. 10, 2008 - New Zealand 3, New Caledonia 0
- Nov. 19, 2008 - New Zealand 0, Fiji 2
- Oct. 10, 2009 - Bahrain 0, New Zealand 0
- Oct. 14, 2009 - New Zealand 1, Bahrain 0
- Number of World Cup appearances: 1
- All-time record: 3 games played, 0 wins, 0 draws, 3 losses
- Goals for: 2
- Goals against: 12
- Biggest defeat: 4-0 vs. Brazil in 1982
- Top scorer: Steve Summer, Steve Wooddin (1 goal)
- Most appearances: Several players (3 matches)
- Hosted the World Cup: Never
World Cup track record
- 1930 to 1966 - Did not enter
- 1970 to 1978 - Did not qualify
- 1982 - First Round
- 1986 to 2006 - Did not qualify
- FIFA member since: 1948
- Team nickname: The All Whites
- All-time caps leader: Ivan Vicelich (72)
- All-time leading scorer: Vaughan Coveny (28)
- Oceania Champions: 1973, 1998, 2002, 2008
- Oceania Under-20 Champions: 2007
- Steve Sumner: Born in England, Sumner was an expatriate who was captain of the New Zealand team that qualified for the World Cup in 1982. He was the first player from the Oceania zone to score in World Cup competition.
- Vaughan Coveny: New Zealand's all-time leading scorer, Coveny played in two Confederations Cups before retiring from the national team in 2006.