New Zealand
© Foto-net

Champions of Oceania

New Zealand will make their third FIFA Confederations Cup appearance in 2009 and the All Whites will again be searching for their first ever points at the global competition.

The 2009 instalment may very well be the time for this small football nation to make some rather large waves. The tournament will be their first competitive venture onto African soil.

Of the seven other teams participating, New Zealand have met five in previous encounters. Only Italy and European champions Spain have never faced the four time Oceania Nations Cup Winners.

And the FIFA Confederations Cup may not be the last we see of Ricki Herbert's men; the side has a solid chance of qualifying for South Africa 2010. Herbert holds positions as both the New Zealand boss and the Wellington Phoenix Coach. The majority of his squad members play their football in Australia's Hyundai A-League, with more than half the current squad featuring for Herbert's Wellington side.

Critics may argue that New Zealand's failure to make headway in major competitions is largely due to the lack of players in high-quality domestic leagues. The counter-argument is that, with a predominantly Wellington-based squad, the boss has access to the majority of his national team all year round.

The New Zealanders have achieved steady improvement under Herbert reaching a six-year high of 82 on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. The Kiwis impressed in their FIFA World Cup qualifiers last year winning five matches in a row, while striker Shane Smeltz set a national team record of scoring in six consecutive matches.

New Zealand supporters have good reason to believe that the All Whites will put on their best display yet at the FIFA Confederations Cup, given the form of both the team and the individuals led by captain and Blackburn Rovers defender Ryan Nelson. Smeltz is in red hot form having claimed this season's A-League player of the year award, and his partnership with Celtic's Chris Killen has helped Herbert assemble a well-rounded side.

Coach: Ricki Herbert
Stars: Ryan Nelsen, Chris Killen, Shane Smeltz