Words: ACFC Media
Wednesday 11 October 2017
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Everything to play for - thats the assessment of former Ivan Vicelich as the All Whites draw Peru in the FIFA World Cup Intercontinental playoff next month.
Vicelich, who won 88 caps during a star-studded international career, watched events unfold on the final day of qualifying in CONMEBOL and believes New Zealand will be pleased with how things have turned out.
Peru came from behind to snatch a 1-1 draw with Colombia as results around them changed dramatically with Brazil thumping South American champions Chile out of contention with a crushing 3-0 win while Paraguay slipped up 1-0 at home to Venezuela to send them crashing out.
Argentina, who needed to win to avoid missing out on the FIFA World Cup altogether, did so by beating Ecuador 3-1 thanks to a Lionel Messi hat-trick but only after they fell behind 1-0 after five minutes.
When the dust settled it was Peru who finished fifth and will face the All Whites in a game Vicelich can't wait to see.
"On paper its a very good draw considering who the All Whites could've got but its still going to be extremely difficult pair of games. It was an entertaining day of qualifying watching some of the results unfold as the tables changed especially in South America.
"The planning starts now for New Zealand and its going to be exciting. Look at the teams that haven't made it to Russia - Chile, Netherlands, Cameroon - the standard of football is increasing around the world and the gap is closing," he said.
Vicelich played a key role as the All Whites qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa beating Bahrain 1-0 on aggregate as New Zealand then finished the tournament unbeaten with draws against Italy, Slovakia and Paraguay.
He says the difference between winning and failing at that level is forensic.
"When you get to the top tier its a matter of inches between success and failure. When you face a South American team you can expect a very fast game against technically very good players who come at you with passion and belief.
"They fight for everything and Peru will demonstrate that again but its also an opportunity for the All Whites to get out there in front of a big Wellington crowd and give it everything they've got in that first game," he said.
Peru are ranked 12th by FIFA's world rankings, a lofty position by any standard, yet they lack the romanticism of some of South America's bigger powers. Vicelich says that lack of big tournament reputation makes no difference to the size of the task in front of New Zealand but he does offer some hope.
"The quality of Peru will be good regardless of the fact they last qualified for a FIFA World Cup in 1982. But they have dropped a few points here and there during the campaign and had to go six games unbeaten at the end of the group to finish fifth.
"That can be a small confidence boost to the All Whites knowing that they're up against a team that hasn't had it all their own way and not one of the more recognised teams like an Argentina, Colombia or Uruguay as it has been in the past.
"This is a massive game and the intercontinental playoff is a chance for fans to turn out in big numbers, support the team and hopefully something special can happen on the big night.
"I remember what happened for us in 2009 when we beat Bahrain and as a footballer you want to experience that feeling because it doesn't happen very often," he said.
Intercontinental Playoff Match Details
With their opponent confirmed, New Zealand Football is close to confirming the details of the Intercontinental Playoff for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
The All Whites, who defeated the Solomon Islands 8-3 on aggregate to book their place in the qualifier, will meet Peru home and away in the international window from 6 – 14 November.
The World No 12 finished as the fifth-ranked South American team after they drew 1-1 with Colombia.
FIFA will now determine the match dates in discussion with New Zealand Football and Peru taking into account the many various factors that affect both teams.
New Zealand Football is in constant communication with the Federacion Peruana De Futbol and FIFA and will release the details for both the home and away leg as soon as they are confirmed. The home leg will be staged first at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
In the meantime, the governing body is encouraging All Whites fans to sign up for the Waitlist for the Intercontinental Playoff to secure a ticket for the hugely-anticipated fixture in Wellington.
Anthony Hudson’s team are looking to make history and follow in the footsteps of the 1982 and 2010 teams to qualify for the FIFA World Cup.
Sun 30 Sep 2018, Auckland Grammar, 11.30am