• New Zealand’s Andrew Durante seeking second time lucky in play-off
  • The All Whites face Peru in third successive intercontinental decider
  • Durante says ‘we have made massive progress’ under Anthony Hudson

A decade ago Andrew Durante must have thought his career was over. Two badly broken legs within the space of 18 months would test the resolve of anyone. But the Australia-born New Zealand defender is clearly made of stern stuff.

He has gone on to represent the All Whites in two FIFA World Cup™ campaigns and has accrued more A-League appearances than any other outfield player. Durante's eight-year tenure leading out the Wellington Phoenix means he is easily the longest-serving skipper in the competition, having previously captained Newcastle Jets to their only national championship. He was even once voted the A-League’s best-ever defender.

But there is one major gap in an otherwise impressive resume. And it is one that has been gnawing away for eight years. Durante was in the stands when New Zealand qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup for what he calls “probably New Zealand’s greatest football moment”.

Now, at the age of 35, he has one last shot at achieving every footballer’s dream. Just 180 minutes separate New Zealand from a third berth at world football’s greatest table. Say it quickly and it may not seem much, but in-form opponents Peru present a sizeable task following their recent maiden elevation into the top ten of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking.

Recreating milestone moment
Durante featured four years ago when New Zealand crashed to a 9-3 aggregate defeat against Mexico in the intercontinental play-off. It was a very different atmosphere four years earlier when New Zealand edged Bahrain to reach their maiden World Cup in 28 years. Echoing that absence is Peru, who are seeking to end their own 36-year drought.

Though more recognised globally for their national rugby team, New Zealanders have responded with fervour about the upcoming match and a national record crowd is expected for the first leg in Wellington on 11 November.

And Durante says experiencing the atmosphere of that victory eight years ago is something he wishes to be a part of. “That was pretty special,” Durante told FIFA.com. “The joy and the whole atmosphere of the night, even the build-up to the game … It was an amazing night, and I would love to be a part of it.”

Four years of growth
An unflappable presence in the backline, Durante brings calm and experience to a side with some younger personnel, albeit with ten survivors from the Brazil 2014 campaign. Having been around the game for so long, Durante — who boasts an Italy-born father and Australian mother — is experienced enough to critique his team’s preparation.

‘Dura’, as he is ubiquitously known, believes that the New Zealanders are better prepared than they were four years ago when El Tri ran riot over both legs of the intercontinental decider. An appearance at this year’s FIFA Confederations Cup has greatly aided the All Whites’ cause.

“We have progressed massively in four years,” he said. “We have improved in every [international match] window under Anthony Hudson.

“A tournament like the Confederations Cup was invaluable for us, especially for the younger players to get big-game experience ... we are normally playing against the island nations. To come up against high-quality opposition in a pressure situation will only bode well for us come November against quality opposition.

“There were a lot of learnings for us. It was a good insight of where we are at and where we need to improve if we are to cause an upset against the South Americans.”

Andrew Durante Fact File:
Position: Central Defender
Clubs: Sydney Olympic, Parramatta Power, Balestier Khalsa (Singapore), Newcastle Jets, Sydney FC, Wellington Phoenix
Caps/Goals: 22/0