Mark Burton scored only one goal at the OFC Nations Cup in 1998 but it was the most important goal of the tournament.
The All Whites midfielder found the back of the net in the 24th minute of the final as New Zealand overcame Australia 1-0 in Brisbane.
The result marked New Zealand’s second Nations Cup crown and put them on a path to the FIFA Confederations Cup in Mexico in 1999.
New Zealand advanced to the final against Australia having edged Tahiti and Vanuatu in the group stages before beating Fiji 1-0 in the semi-finals, courtesy of an 88th-minute winner from Danny Hay.
Twenty-two years on since he scored perhaps the most valuable goal of his career, Burton still has a decent recollection of the final that was played on October 4, 1998.
“Australia lost the ball around halfway and Vaughan Coveny took the ball down the left-hand side, crossed it in and I was on hand to receive the ball and score,” Burton said.
“Then the rest of the game was a battle, as you can imagine, we fought and kept playing but probably towards the last 25 minutes of the match it became a bit of a siege. Australia threw everything at us and we managed to hold on; it was a pretty incredible experience for us.”
The Confederations Cup
The All Whites were grouped with Brazil, the United States and Germany at the 1999 Confederations Cup – a challenging pool to say the least.
The Kiwis were underdogs in every fixture and acquitted themselves well, despite losing each match by close margins.
The game against Brazil – where they went down 2-0 – remains a highlight for Burton after all these years.
Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho scored one of the goals in their victory over New Zealand and Burton managed to swap shirts with him at full-time.
“More importantly, he got my shirt,” Burton laughed.
But the quips don’t stop there, Burton said he – jokingly – tells people he actually left the Brazilian player he was marking just as the referee was about to blow his whistle so he could be next to Ronaldinho to ensure he got the precious piece of memorabilia.
“I was pretty stoked to have that. It was at a time where he was coming on to the scene, he was the next breakout star from Brazil,” Burton said.
“It was a privilege being on the same park as a player of that quality.”
Travelling far and wide
Burton was also a member of New Zealand’s squad that won the OFC Nations Cup in 2002 that went on to play in the Confederations Cup in France the following year.
Now based in Sydney, Australia where he is an Associate Director for data, insights and consultancy firm Kantar, Burton is a world away from the highs of his football career.
Having grown up in Wellington in New Zealand, he moved to Germany as a teenager in 1992 where he played professionally for nearly a decade.
Burton later joined the Football Kingz in Australia’s now-defunct National Soccer League, representing them from 2000-2004.
Following the demise of the National Soccer League, the Kiwi briefly lived in London before finishing his competitive football career with four years in Spain for a handful of clubs in Barcelona.
Having learnt Spanish – to accompany his English and German – Burton then lived in and worked Melbourne for 10 years where he also played futsal before relocating to Sydney two-and-a-half years ago.
While he has no current involvement in football, the 46-year-old didn’t rule it out in the future and he can always bring along a famous yellow Brazilian shirt to remind people of his achievements in the game.