New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert believes his team's performance against Australia yesterday shows the All Whites will be more than competitive at this year's FIFA World Cup™.
Chris Killen put the visitors - ranked 58 places below the Socceroos in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking - ahead after 16 minutes but second-half efforts from Dario Vidosic and, with the last kick of the match, Brett Holman handed Australia victory. Herbert said the display proved his team would not be the pushovers most experts think they will be in South Africa after being drawn alongside Italy, Paraguay and Slovakia.
"The history of New Zealand (football) tells you - you play one up front and you get 10 behind the ball and hope for a set play (to score) so hopefully we have changed that sort of thinking with the personnel we have," he said. "I think we caused them all sorts of problems with Rory Fallon's ability in the air while Chris (Killen) is a good finisher and with (Shane) Smeltz we have seen what he can do in and around the box.
It was great for us to have a World Cup warm-up game here in front of a big crowd and with the big rivalry back again and hopefully that continues.
"Maybe we surprised (people in Australia) with our performance but it was a good positive statement of what we are about and where we are at. Although we have got a lot of work to do yet leading into the World Cup, I was very pleased."
While Australia and New Zealand met regularly when both were in the Oceania confederation - the All Whites famously knocked Australia out of the 1982 and 1990 FIFA World Cups in qualifying and also beat the Socceroos in the 1999 and 2002 Oceania Nations Cup Final - last night's clash was their first meeting in five years following Australia's move into Asia.
However Herbert says his team's performance showed his team was more than a capable opponent for the Socceroos and would like to see regular meetings between the two nations - as is the case in cricket through the annual Chappell-Hadlee trophy. "It was a great match and I can only thank the FFA (Football Federation of Australia)," Herbert said.
"It was great for us to have a World Cup warm-up game here in front of a big crowd and with the big rivalry back again and hopefully that continues. Given the right timing and with all players fully fit I think it would be an amazing opportunity for the game (regular Australia-New Zealand fixtures) and hopefully people went away having enjoyed it."