Buoyed by picking up their first ever FIFA World Cup™ point, minnows New Zealand are now daring to dream they can upset the odds and make the second round of South Africa 2010.
The All Whites stunned a highly-rated Slovakia side with a stoppage-time goal to earn a 1-1 draw in their opening match on Tuesday. Coach Ricki Herbert called the point the greatest result in the rugby-mad country's football history and sees no reason why they can't build on the euphoria and make the round of 16.
"It's still a long way to go. The immediate focus is the next game - Italy," he said. "But it is possible, we've just got to keep working hard and believing in ourselves and see what happens."
Italy, who also drew their first game 1-1, are their next hurdle on Monday and New Zealand have some history with the defending champions, having battled to a 4-3 defeat against Marcello Lippi's men in a friendly ahead of the FIFA Confederations Cup last year in South Africa. The All Whites led the match on three occasions through goals from Shane Smeltz and Chris Killen before Italy clawed back to win.
"We will keep on dreaming," said Herbert. "The reality is we have a chance like anybody else. It will be tough but we are competitors and right up there. I am sure the Italians will be hoping to secure three points, we have the utmost respect for them but we will be up for it."
The All Whites came into the tournament on the back of a stunning 1-0 victory over Serbia and a narrow 2-1 defeat to Australia. They have played at the FIFA World Cup just once before, in 1982, when they lost all three matches.