The World Cup Alphabet – A is for…. Part 1



New Zealand’s football history may not feature five world cup appearances or a foray in to Asia like their neighbours but over the history of the event they have given us a bloody nose and then some at times.


The All Whites first came to being in 1904 in a game against New South Wales way down in Dunedin that was followed up with a game in Wellington a few days later. Then they didn’t play again until 1921. They were a bit late to the party getting in to qualifying for a World Cup like Australia too. First attempting to make it to Mexico 1970, Israel blew the Kiwis out of the water over two legs. Much like Australia’s first attempt four years previous it was over before it begun.


To get to the 1974 event they were grouped with Australia and three teams from across Asia. For whatever reason one game would be played in Auckland (a 1-1 draw against Australia) before all other games were played in Melbourne or Sydney. New Zealand wouldn’t win a game and would go out early again while the Socceroos went on to make history in West Germany. For the attempt at getting to Argentina for 1978 they would play Australia and Chinese Taipei in a group. While they got their first wins belting Taipei home and away a loss in Sydney and draw at home in Auckland to the Socceroos put them out again.


With all this failure they always seemed to be a footnote in the history of a sport they had never really made their own. It was all very much rugby in the winter and cricket in the summer in New Zealand much like Australia. Actually it was probably rugby in the autumn, spring and summer too. Yet by the time the 80s rolled around they were getting together a very decent team. There was a sporting vacuum in the country following the spiteful 1981 Springboks tour so this team came along just at the right time to restore faith. Despite the side being full of mainly amateurs playing in the NSL or Kiwi leagues and a coach who was even seen as dated in 1982 in John Adshead they were tremendously organised and had real spirit.

Image result for New Zealand 1982

The World Cup Qualifying New Zealand National Team. (Courtesy


In a group with Australia, Indonesia, Chinese Taipei and Fiji the Kiwis picked up points as the Aussies floundered and remarkably topped the group. This knocked the Socceroos out. During the campaign Australian coach Les Scheinflug was spying on New Zealand when they played an unknown Polynesian team. Due to stupid mismanagement and understanding of the transport situation getting back to the hotel in said country Scheinflug was forced to ride on the New Zealand team bus which pleased the All Whites no end. The kiwi players all piped up with a rousing version of the Dad’s Army song for the German born Scheinflug with the lyrics “Who do you think you’re kidding Mr Scheinflug if you think New Zealand’s done”.


New Zealand would finish second in the final qualifying group and knock out China in a play off to make their World Cup début in Spain. A remarkable achievement. They may have qualified for the World Cup but lost all three games in what was arguably the group of death for that tournament (USSR, Brazil, Scotland). Still, a team with such limited resources going so far and knocking out their arch rivals on the way was something to behold and almost became myth in to legend for supporters in following generations.


For the next six campaigns the Kiwis would fall to Australia in one way or another but then the sands shifted, Australia left Oceania to join the Asian Confederation giving the Kiwis a clearer path to the finals. The 2010 World Cup to be held in South Africa was achievable for a side now with professionals around the world.


The American College system had trained and pumped out some excellent players for the All Whites also, had their time come again? After creaming the Island Nations they would play Bahrain in a two legged play off to see who would go to Africa. Coached by 1982 hero Rickie Herbert (a car salesman when playing for the national side) they drew 0-0 away and then won 1-0 in a pulsating game at a filled to capacity Cake Tin in Wellington. In the game Bahrain missed a penalty and a player who spent most of his carrer in the lower divisions of England scored the goal. The planets had aligned for Pacific’s triple star once again.

Image result for New Zealand 2010 panini

New Zealand in a Panini sticker album. A first time for everything..


In South Africa New Zealand wouldn’t just be there as an after thought like 1982 even if some players had ‘unattached’ next to their name on team bios instead of a club. In their first game now West Ham United captain Winston Reid scored a last minute equaliser in Rustenburg against Slovakia. Then they managed a 0-0 draw with South American heavyweights Paraguay. Their final game with still a shot at making it out of the group would be against Socceroo slayers and defending champs Italy.


In New Zealand football’s greatest ever moment a 1-1 draw knocked the Azzurri out of the tournament. New Zealand were out too but what a name to drag down with them!


No wins, no berth in the second round but a hell of an effort. Us Aussies in South Africa arrived in Rustenburg for the game against Ghana days after the Kiwis’ draw with Slovakia. Some Kiwis were still there, the red dust of the Northern mining city mixed in with the white of their colours. Some found new ways for the use of the word ‘convict’ without much of the wit of an Oscar Wilde. Some just wanted a beer and to talk football with their former OFC colleagues on a trip of a life time, the twinkle in their eye like the one we had in Germany in 2006.


Since 2010 New Zealand has made it to playoffs for a spot in the World Cup Finals but Mexico and Peru have proved too strong. Do they move to Asia? Will the planned expansion of the tournament see them make it more often than not now? For the size of the nation, the lack of football culture like us and limited resources they have certainly had their moments. And they also have the best national anthem going around. Do you think they’ll be cheering us on in Russa? Nah..


About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.


  1. Rabid Dog says

    I once worked with Glenn Dod, who played for NZ in the 82 World Cup. He got to play a World Cup game against Brazil – some bragging rights!

  2. Mick Jeffrey says

    Only one other team in 2010 were not beaten, the winning Spaniards. Remarkable effort really considering there’s really only one fully pro club (Phoenix) in the country, and that may not be for much longer. Truth be told I wouldn’t have been surprised if Oceania was absorbed into Asia but the prospect of a 48 team tournament may see them emerge regularly at the big dance.

  3. The All Whites were actually the only country to not lose a game in 2010. Spain lost their opener to the Swiss in Durban. Decent quiz night question when you think about it.

Leave a Comment