Moss: The tournament starts now
New Zealand's Glen Moss is a happy man, as you might expect for someone who is his country's first-choice goalkeeper and is taking part in the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009. Even so, it was a surprise to see the 26-year-old custodian's face wreathed in smiles when FIFA.com met him after Sunday's match between the Oceania champions and Spain. After all, having let in five goals, it would have been understandable if he were a little downcast.
"We gave our all in the match with Spain but our real objective is to take points off South Africa and Iraq," says the Kiwi No1, already looking ahead to New Zealand's next outing on Wednesday against hosts South Africa. "We honestly knew it was going to be a tough match. They're the best team in the world right now and it would have taken a miracle to stand up to them."
Three minutes was as long as the Kiwi defence managed to hold out against the European champions. "The first thing you feel is disappointment, of course, because it's never nice to lose and even less so with a score like that," explains Moss. "When all's said and done, though, it's a logical result because there's such a big difference between us in terms of status and experience."
Moss knew he was in for a long, hard night as soon as he saw the Spanish front line begin to knock the ball around with customary élan. As he explains, however, it was also an enriching experience. "It was a strange game for me. I felt I'd done my best and I still let in five. Obviously it's frustrating to give everything you have and see that it doesn't make any difference at all. You learn a lot in games like that, especially in my position. It's when you come up against the best strikers in the world that you can really progress as a goalkeeper. And at this level, it's pretty hard to find anyone better than Fernando Torres was that night."
El Niño's quick-fire hat-trick marked the start of the sternest of footballing lesson's for the Antipodeans and Moss is expecting Torres and his team-mate to be in similarly instructive mood when they meet the two other sides in Group A. "Hopefully they'll do the same to South Africa and Iraq," he comments. "Everyone's saying they'll win all their games and leave the three of us to battle it out for second place. We need to pick ourselves up and do well in the games we can take points in, starting with South Africa on Wednesday."
The All Whites cannot afford any more mishaps and will need to turn in an improved performance against Bafana Bafana if they are to stay in the tournament and maintain hopes of a semi-final place. To achieve that, though, the New Zealanders will have to do something they have failed to do in their two previous appearances in the Festival of Champions by winning some points.
Although accustomed to defeat whenever they venture outside the Oceania Zone, Ricki Herbert's side can at least take solace from the fact that they gave reigning world champions Italy a scare in a friendly just a few days before their Spanish masterclass. The OFC Nations Cup holders acquitted themselves well against the Azzurri before eventually going down to a 4-3 defeat. "Maybe the fact it was a friendly and not a competitive match helped us play a bit more freely," explains Moss. "We need to repeat that performance and rediscover that spirit in a tournament, when the stakes are higher."
Having smiled his way through the interview, Moss ends on a defiant note. "As far we're concerned the tournament starts now," says the keeper, determined to ensure that Kiwi participation in the competition does not come to a sudden end against the home favourites in Rustenburg.