Righting the ship with a 3-0 win over Solomon Islands looked to have them back on track. But a surprise 4-2 defeat by Vanuatu - perhaps the biggest upset in the region's history - had them in the doldrums yet again.
A 10-0 defeat of Tahiti and a 2-1 win over Fiji
failed to complete the turnaround the All Whites needed. A
combination of their two losses and a fine run of form from the
Solomons saw the minnows pip the Kiwis for a spot in the Oceania
play-off in 2005.
Matching their greatest achievement - a spot in the finals at Spain 1982 - will have to wait at least until 2010. Although they lost their three matches at the finals to Scotland, Brazil and the Soviet Union, Spain 1982 is still considered the greatest footballing triumph ever achieved by the All Whites.
The competition also marked the beginning of what was to become a great career for the then 19-year-old Wynton Rufer, who went on to win a European Cup Winners' Cup medal in 1992, scoring one of the goals in Werder Bremen's 2-0 victory over Monaco. Much later, Rufer was named as the FIFA Oceania Player of the Century.
But unfortunately for New Zealand football fans, Australia have proved to be an insurmountable hurdle since then - at least as far as FIFA World Cup qualifying goes. However, the All Whites managed a popular 1-0 victory in the final of the OFC Nations Cup 2002, thereby qualifying for the FIFA Confederations Cup France 2003.
Since Australia's departure to the AFC zone, New Zealand has emerged as the region's leading football nation on the pitch, with their men's and women's youth teams qualifying for the FIFA U-17 and U-20 FIFA World Cups and Auckland City qualifying for the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2006.
Performances at the finals of these tournaments have failed to produce positive results, despite brave efforts on the world stage. New Zealand are seeded at the second phase of FIFA World Cup qualifying in the Oceania region, where they will be joined by the top three teams at the XIII South Pacific Games Samoa 2007.
Results in friendly internationals in 2007 have ranged from the impressive (a 2-2 draw away to Wales) to the disheartening (a 5-0 defeat by Venezuela). Nevertheless, the All Whites remain favourites to reach the playoff against the fifth-placed team from the AFC qualifying for a berth at the FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010.