Photo Credit: Maja Hitij – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

New Zealand are on the verge of advancing to the knockout stages at a FIFA World Cup for the first time ever with a victory over Switzerland in Dunedin a guarantee that they would make it through to the Round of 16.

Following a disappointing 1-0 loss to the Philippines in Wellington earlier in the week, the co-hosts will be hoping for a performance more akin to that of their opening day win over Norway if they are to keep their tournament hopes alive.

Head coach Jitka Klimková was in typical positive mood as her team look forward to playing in front of another partisan home crowd.

“We’re so excited to have another opportunity to play in front of our fans and families. We’re very happy to be here in Dunedin, we haven’t played her for a long time – I’m sure you guys know how many years!” she said.

With the same XI named in their opening two matches, Klimková discussed whether any changes would be made with so much on the line.

“We are always looking for players who are bubbling up. There is nothing said before the game, we always decide after the last session with the coaching staff who are the players in the best form and they will be starting tomorrow,” she explained.

“It’s a great challenge for us, it’s a great opportunity. Switzerland is a very strong team, we know they have a very compact defence, when they’re in possession we can see a lot of movement – they are interchanging, they are rotating , centrally and on the flanks.

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND – JULY 29: Jitka Klimkova, Head Coach of New Zealand, speaks to the media during a New Zealand Press Conference at Dunedin Stadium on July 29, 2023 in Dunedin / Ōtepoti, New Zealand. (Photo by Matthew Lewis – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

“I feel like we are prepared, we know them now after studying them pre-World Cup and during the World Cup, so we have our game plan and we want to keep inspiring. We want to perform tomorrow in a way that we are playing for New Zealand, we are playing for our fans here and that’s our main priority, to focus on a good performance,” she continued.

Goalkeeper Vic Esson echoed her coach’s confidence in the team’s preparation ahead of the crunch tie.

“We’re excited for the game tomorrow, we just came off our last training session and the vibes were good. Some great goals scored and we can’t wait to get into the game tomorrow,” the Rangers FC ‘keeper said.

Whilst a win would guarantee that the Football Ferns would continue their World Cup adventure, a draw could suffice dependent on the outcome of Norway and the Philippines encounter in Auckland also on Sunday evening.

With just ninety minutes separating New Zealand and footballing history, it should prove to be an emotional evening in Dunedin for Kiwi fans worldwide.