Chris Killen will realise a boyhood dream when he lines up for New Zealand against Italy in Nelspruit on Sunday. But it is more grown-up matters that will concern the big striker once the FIFA World Cup™ is over.
Newly married -- his honeymoon has had to wait until the All Whites' adventure in South Africa is over -- Killen will find himself out of work at the end of the month unless he can find another club or persuade his current employers, Middlesbrough, to offer him a new deal.
The 28-year-old's threat in the air was in evidence as New Zealand claimed a 1-1 draw with Slovakia in their opening match and he knows that finding the net against the world champions could make all the difference to how his future shapes up.
"I'm out of contract at the end of the month so it's a big time for me and it's probably important to have stepped up and show I can do it," Killen told AFP. "I'm still talking to Middlesbrough," he added. "I haven't heard from the manager for about a month but I'm not too worried about that now. I'm worried about my football here and trying to get through the group. To get a goal against Italy would be brilliant. Anybody who scores against the world champions is going to get a bit of attention."
Middlesbrough boss Gordon Strachan signed Killen from his former club Celtic in January but a return of three goals in his 15 appearances in the second half of the season failed to trigger an offer of a long-term contract.
For Killen, that has been pretty much the story of a career that has not quite lived up to the hopes he nurtured while learning his trade in Manchester City's youth academy. Lingering regrets will be put to one side on Sunday however as Killen battles with Italy's world class centrebacks, Fabio Cannavaro and Giorgio Chiellini.
If the vastly experienced duo do have a weakness it is arguably in the air and Chiellini admitted earlier this week that Italy would have to work hard to prevent New Zealand's wide men from providing Killen, Rory Fallon and Shane Smeltz with a regular supply of crosses.
"They're very dangerous in the air and from set pieces, as we found out when we played them last year," the Juventus defender said, referring to a 4-3 friendly win Italy scraped in the build-up to the Confederations Cup.
Killen believes New Zealand's last-gasp equaliser and all-round display against Slovakia will have made the Italians even more concerned.
"A lot of people have said we were coming out here to make up the numbers but that's not the case. Hopefully after the Slovakia result, we've earned a bit more respect. We're not going to get carried away. We're just going to go and give it our all, put our hearts into it and see where we go.
"But if we can get some good crosses in, I think we can trouble them. That's definitely an advantage for our team. We've got a lot of big strong boys, and hopefully we'll get chances if we put it in the box. When we do that, we cause problems and against Slovakia we had three or four chances that, on another day, might have gone in."