by Jim Selby
New Zealand were living the dream just by qualifying for the FIFA World Cup™ after a 28-year absence. Then they came to South Africa with their dream to be competitive on the world stage and deliver some spirited displays. They undoubtedly achieved that – and then some. If you had offered the Kiwis a draw against the world champions, and an undefeated tournament they would have taken it with both hands.
The team have a very strong work ethic, committed individuals and a very good team spirit. That is something that seems to be missing from some teams, and perhaps that is why some nations are going home after the group stage. The New Zealanders have shown some of the more established sides what can happen with the right team spirit. New Zealand skipper Ryan Nelsen has led from the front showing true passion and leadership.
New Zealand play with grit and determination, utilising a compact defence looking to make the most of quick breaks upfield. The coaching staff knows what the team are capable of and they played to their strengths in South Africa. Goalkeeper Mark Paston was simply outstanding. He had a very strong tournament, making few mistakes and he seemingly had no trouble with the ball.
The team's performances are a source of pride for both New Zealand and Oceania, and should make for a new level of respect for the nation and the confederation. The team have earned a new-found standing and admiration not only within South Africa, but across the globe.