After 900 minutes of World Cup qualifying so far, New Zealand potentially face just 90 more in the second leg of the Intercontinental Play-off in Lima tomorrow to secure the final berth in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.
There is a chance that their campaign – that for the All Whites began 18 months ago in Port Moresby – may extend into extra time and even penalties should the 0-0 scoreline from Saturday’s first leg in Wellington be repeated at the Estadio Nacional de Lima, but any other result in 90 minutes will provide a winner on either aggregate or the away goals rule.
New Zealand have faced a disrupted build up since leaving New Zealand – their connecting flight from Buenos Aires faced a forced refuelling and their one full training session lacked the privacy they desired.
But despite those setbacks, the New Zealand camp has continued to radiate a calm confidence insisting the weight of both expectation and history is against their 10th ranked hosts, who have not qualified for the FIFA World Cup finals since 1982.
All Whites captain Winston Reid, who was one of the stand-out performers of the first leg says play-off experiences of 2009 and 2013 against Bahrain and Mexico respectively will serve this crop of players well in front of 50,000 vociferous locals and a handful of hardy Kiwis.
“We’re used to playing in big environments, said Reid, “we play big games outside of our country against big opponents so we’re well travelled.”
“If you look at our recent history we play all of our big games away from home. We’re used to pressure, we’re used to playing a play-off game every four years and we’re looking forward to tomorrow and we’re all very excited.”
Coach Anthony Hudson said there is a singular focus lying beneath the team’s breezy demeanour.
“I have to say the mood in the team is unbelievable,” said Hudson.
“Everyone is relaxed. We’re in a really good place, everyone is focused and we’re looking forward to the game. Nothing can get in our way on this tour. The team spirit is the strongest it’s been in the three and a half years I’ve been in the job.”
The interest in Peru’s quest to end a 35 year wait for FIFA World Cup qualification is intense. Over 600,000 people entered the ballot to be able to purchase tickets for tomorrow’s match and Peru coach Ricardo Gereca has assured the public his side is fully committed to delivering the result the country craves.
“It won’t be an easy game. It’s always tough. Even though we’re at home we face a very well organised team but we have the fans, we have everybody behind the team. We have a good chance to get a good result but it won’t be easy.”
“The fans won’t have to worry. We will give everything we have. The team will give 100 per cent to try and qualify for the World Cup.”
The All Whites travelled to South America without fullback Storm Roux who has not recovered from the injury that kept him out of the first leg line up and are sweating on the fitness of defender Tommy Smith who picked up a knock to his calf during Saturday’s draw.
“He’s had a fitness test this morning and we’ve decided to rest him and we’ll have another test tomorrow to see how he’s doing. We’ll make a decision on his fitness tomorrow.”
But the news is better for talismanic striker Chris Wood who was limited to 19 influential minutes off the bench in Wellington and helped to create two late chances for his teammates which could’ve given them a valuable lead at the halfway point of the two-legged tie.
Hudson, played down the in-form Burnley forward’s injury as “mild tightness in his hamstring” and while acknowledging the importance of the English Premier League forward, said there were other attacking threats in the All Whites.
“Chris is a very important player to us, but as I said before we don’t have a big team like Peru.”
“We have a very small team and we have many, many good players in that team. Chris Wood is important but we have many others who are important and dangerous in tomorrow’s game.
“We’re not putting all of our faith in Chris Wood as we have lots of other players who can score goals and have scored goals away from home against big teams and caused problems against big teams. We go into the game confident.”
The match kicks off at 9.15pm on Wednesday night in Lima (3.15pm on Thursday, New Zealand time).
FIFA World Cup Qualifying – Intercontinental Playoff, second leg.
Estadio Nacional de Lima, Peru
Wednesday 15 November, 9.15pm (local) / Thursday 16 November, 3.15pm (NZST)
New Zealand: 1. Stefan MARINOVIC (GK), 2. Winston REID (c), 3. Deklan WYNNE, 4. Themi TZIMOPOULOS, 5. Michael BOXALL, 6. Bill TUILOMA, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8. Michael McGLINCHEY, 9. Chris WOOD, 10. Shane SMELTZ, 11. Marco ROJAS, 12. Glen MOSS (GK), 13. Monty PATTERSON, 14. Ryan THOMAS, 15. Clayton LEWIS, 16. Dane INGHAM, 17. Jeremy BROCKIE, 18. Kip COLVEY, 19. Rory FALLON, 20. Tommy SMITH, 22. Andrew DURANTE, 23. Max CROCOMBE (GK)
Coach: Anthony HUDSON (ENG)
Peru: 1. Pedro GALLESE (GK), 2. Alberto RODRÍGUEZ, 3. Aldo CORZO, 4. Anderson SANTAMARIA, 5. Adnrian ZELA, 6. Miguel TRAUCO, 7. Paolo HURTADO, 8. Christian CUEVA, 9. Yordy REINA, 10. Jefferson FARFAN, 11. Raúl RUIDÍAZ, 12. Carlos CÁCEDA (GK), 13. Renato TAPIA, 14. Andy POLO, 15. Christian RAMOS, 16. Wilder CARTAGENA, 17. Luis ADVÍNCULA, 18. André CARRILLO, 19. Yoshimar YOTÚN, 20. Edison FLORES, 21. José CARVALLO (GK), 22. Nilson LOYOLA, 23. Pedro AQUINO
Coach: Ricardo GARECA (ARG)