Nobody likes being a party pooper – unless you happen to be a New Zealander and tackling Confederations Cup hosts South Africa in a make-or-break Group A tie here on Wednesday.
A win for Ricki Herbert’s All Whites would leave South Africa with the unenviable task of having to beat Spain – something surely not even their most ardent supporter President Jacob Zuma would suggest was remotely possible.
The history books tell you the Oceania champions are unlikely to spring an upset – ranked a modest 79th in the world they have failed to pick up a point in six matches from two previous Confed Cup appearances.
They were like rabbits caught in the spotlight in the 5-0 rout by Spain, but even so captain Tim Brown refused to discount a shock.
“Hopefully we can turn around after the Spanish game and create history by causing an upset,” he told an eve-of-match press conference Tuesday.
“We’re not under any pressure, we can play with freedom, perhaps unlike South Africa.”
Herbert, who played for New Zealand at the 1982 World Cup finals, described the game in Rustenburg as “huge” for South Africa, who were left stunned after being held to a goalless draw by Iraq on Sunday.
“They’ll be looking to win after Iraq and will be under a lot of pressure.
“We are still looking for our first point, maybe we have a chance to get it tomorrow.”
He said New Zealand would play to their strengths.
“One of those is set pieces. Most people saw in the friendly against Italy that set pieces were successful for us. We’ll continue to look to dominate areas like that if we can.”
He said the side had reviewed the Spanish rout but despite leaking five goals he insisted there would be no drastic changes to his back line.
“I’ll be interested to see how other teams do against Spain,” he smiled.
“No one will be prouder than me if we can get something from tomorrow’s game. There’s a good atmosphere in the group. There will be lots of noise and a big crowd and that’s what we like.”
Forward Shane Smeltz believes the fact that South Africa must go for broke could play to their advantage.
“The South Africans will try to get at us, perhaps that will give us the opportunity to get at them.”
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