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Kiwis rely on strength of character

SoccerNews in World Cup 13 Jun 2009

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New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert pointed to his team’s strength of character as a key factor in their seemingly impossible task of taming European champions Spain on Sunday.

The All Whites go into their opening match of the Confederations Cup buoyed by scoring three goals against world champions Italy last week, only to lose 4-3.

“This match is something we’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” said Herbert, whose team are in the competition as Oceania champions.

“It’s a fresh challenge. I see Spain as favourites for the title.

“It’s a tall order but we are from New Zealand and we have strength of character. It will certainly be a test, but coming off the Italy game we have a lot of confidence.”

Herbert, who is missing injured captain and Blackburn star Ryan Nelsen, will be looking to the experience of players like Celtic’s Chris Killen and Oceania Player of the Year Shane Smeltz to guide his young side.

Captain Tim Brown is also a crucial cog.

“It’s a massive challenge,” admitted Brown. “No one gives us a chance.”

He said it was important that the team not be overawed by the occasion, nor by star names such as Fernando Torres and Cesc Fabregas lining up against them.

“We can’t afford to be nervous and hopefully we can control our emotions. Our focus has to be on our performance,” he said.

While Spain are playing their first Confederations Cup, New Zealand have been in the tournament twice before — in Mexico in 1999 and France in 2003.

But they have a sorry record. In their six matches they have failed to pick up a point, scoring just two goals.

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