One of the more experienced players in the New Zealand squad, Leo Bertos has come of age as a footballer in the last three years culminating in being named Wellington Phoenix Player of the Year for 2008/09. A wide player, Bertos is best known as filling the right midfielder position but has also been utilised as a right full-back.
The 29-year-old is now in his eighth year with the national team having debuted in 2003. Bertos spent numerous seasons playing lower league football in England with the likes of Barnsley, Chester, Rochdale and York City before returning to Australia to join Perth Glory. The move to the A-League saw Bertos blossom with regular first-team action, firstly in Perth for two seasons, and then with Wellington. Although only rarely on the scoresheet, Bertos has provided many assists at both international and domestic level and is know for his pace and work ethic.
Indeed it was Bertos who provided perhaps the most famous assist in New Zealand football history. Bertos swung in an inch-perfect corner from which Rory Fallon headed the winner against Bahrain last November in Wellington to secure New Zealand’s spot in the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ and win the two-legged aggregate playoff 1-0, following the goalless draw in Manama. It was just reward for a fine performance on the right flank from Bertos where his renowned dribbling and passing came to the fore on the most important night for the game in the ‘land of the long white cloud’.
Bertos provided two assists for New Zealand in their 4-3 loss to world champions Italy in Pretoria just prior to the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009. He then went on to feature heavily in all three matches for the All Whites against Spain, South Africa and Iraq. Though the Kiwis went home without a goal, they will look heavily to the creativity of Bertos when they attempt to erase that record on this visit to South Africa.
The most recent domestic season was by far the most successful for Bertos’ Wellington Phoenix side who played in front of record crowds and became the first New Zealand side to reach the finals of the A-League. Bertos made a pivotal contribution to that success featuring in every match and claiming the all-time leading assists record for the club. Like all of New Zealand’s A-League based players, Bertos’ preparations have been hampered by the lack of recent regular football with the domestic campaign concluding in early March. Enjoying the confidence of coach Ricki Herbert at both domestic and international level means Bertos is likely to be one of the first names etched onto the All Whites teamsheet at South Africa 2010.