Q & A
Football's biggest stars in the hot seat
What does the World Cup mean to you? Did you ever think you'd be in this position?
For us as Kiwis, we all saw the '82 squad who qualified when we were growing up as kids – that was a big deal. Well, I wasn't born then, but you know it happened and you know its legacy. So it's always in the back of your mind. It is such a tough task and to have got there, to have made it, is unbelievable.
Exclusive interviews: 32 players from 32 nations
What was your earliest World Cup memory?
We are always getting up as kids to watch it in the middle of the night. I remember getting up in the dark. I'd have to say Michael Owen scoring against Argentina at France '98. He was my favourite player growing up and I'll never forget that goal.
What are your expectations given that, at 500-1, you are the rankest of rank outsiders. Is that even a word?
Hopefully we'll win a lot of money then! Only joking. Getting there is a great achievement, but we can't just be happy with that. We have to try and get out of our group and that is how we are approaching it. If we don't then we are basically just going for a holiday – and we're definitely not there for that. If we can progress we would be really happy and then we can take it from there.
What do you think of your group? It could have been a lot worse...
Yeah, in terms of the powerhouse in our group, Italy, we actually played them in a friendly before the Confederations Cup last year. We ended up losing 4-3 but it was a close game and we were ahead at times. I think their style suits us at times so it's a good match up. It will be tough. But again, I think we can take points off people.
You've been to South Africa before, for the Confederations Cup. What was the experience like and what did you learn from the game against Spain [New Zealand lost 5-0]?
Yes, I hope we got it out of our system before the tournament! It's difficult for us to get good warm-up games so we learnt a lot from them and that game. It will help us.
What will this do for football in New Zealand, given that rugby is the game of choice?
Between us qualifying for the World Cup and with the A-League side [Wellington Phoenix, also coached by Ricki Herbert] doing well, things are going well. We are breaking attendance records for games. It's huge. But it is the most participated sport at youth level so we have a real opportunity to grow the game in New Zealand.
Who is your danger man? Rory Fallon, given his goal got you here?
We are lucky because we have four main strikers who are playing quality football in good teams, so I don't think there's any one player that's a threat. We got here by playing as a team: we are a team that puts in the hard work and works for each other.
You'll want to keep Ryan Nelsen wrapped up before the tournament though...
Yeah [Laughs]. He's a great leader and a great captain who brings a lot of big match experience to the team, which is something we don't always have.
Now, Owen won't be there, which must disappoint you, so who do you see as England's main man?
There is one answer: Rooney. He's a class above. But Walcott also, who has great pace. For England's sake, and I supported England growing up because there are such strong ties between England and New Zealand, I hope they are all fit.
Would you relish playing England?
In order for us to get through we need to beat the teams that are the most beatable and England probably aren't on that list! So I wouldn't like to come across those players but if you want to go all the way, then you have to at some point. [Pauses] Actually, it would be great to play against them. Torres again, too.
Really? After the last time?!
Yeah, I know. We'll have to stop him this time for redemption.
Greece won the Euros in 2004, Iraq the Asian Cup in 2007. Small sides can spring upsets.
What would happened in New Zealand if the unthinkable happened?
I think it would be mayhem. It was absolute carnage when we qualified. So progressing past the group stages will be unbelievable. The whole country will get behind us and I think it would take football and our support to a new level.
You play for New York Red Bulls in the MLS. Are you and the rest of the team looking at the World Cup as a springboard to perhaps play in Europe? Where would you like to go?
The Spanish, Italian and English leagues are right up there. English football has always been something I watched growing up, so that would be great. Anywhere in Europe would be awesome. But it's pretty cool living in New York!
Interview: June 2010.
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