Oceania representatives New Zealand, drawn against defending champions Italy, expressed a measure of confidence in their 2010 FIFA World Cup™ prospects; taking satisfaction from who they are not playing.
New Zealand, who will play all three of their Group F games at high altitude in the north-east of South Africa, have been drawn against Italy, Slovakia and Paraguay. The way the draw was set up meant France, Portugal and Côte d'Ivoire were the teams most countries did not want in their groups, and fortune favoured New Zealand.
"We would have wanted to avoid France and Portugal I think as the non-seeded teams," coach Ricki Herbert said. "Italy however speak for themselves, but Slovakia and Paraguay are two new sides to us. They are two big obstacles but we go in with some confidence."
The All Whites have never played Slovakia before, and faced Paraguay only once in 1995, losing 3-2 in Santiago de Chile. They also take heart from pushing Italy to 4-3 in their lead-up to last year's FIFA Confederations Cup.
"Italy won the game after they brought on all the big guns but we mainly lost because of personal mistakes," assistant coach Brian Turner said.
New Zealand, in the finals for only the second time after qualifying in 1982, are ranked 77th in the world and play their first game in South Africa against the 34th ranked Slovakia, making their FIFA World Cup finals debut. "They're unknown to us, as we will be to them, so they're an interesting one to get first up," Herbert said.
Herbert said the fact the All Whites would be playing at altitude might mean they have to arrive in South Africa earlier to acclimatise. "We've got to move as quickly as we can now from a preparation point of view," he said.
"Getting two European teams maybe shapes our thinking a little bit and perhaps we will look at getting some games in that part of the world prior to going, but we may need to assemble now into South Africa a little bit sooner than what we thought."
Herbert acknowledged the other teams in their group would see the All Whites as an opportunity to grab three points. "But we'll be going there with very strong ambitions to make a statement and make it as difficult as what we can."
Should the All Whites beat the odds and make it through to the second round they would play a team from Group E, which includes the Netherlands, Japan, Cameroon and Denmark.