Goal.com caught up with the Kiwi legend, who provided us with an insight into his nation’s World Cup hopes…
Nov 13, 2009 6:00:00 AM
New Zealand and Werder Bremen legend Wynton Rufer has told Goal.com that he’s certain his country will advance to South Africa 2010, when they welcome Bahrain for the second leg of their World Cup play-off.
Officially acknowledged by FIFA as Oceania’s greatest player of the 20th century, Rufer is, without doubt, the Pacific nation’s greatest football import of all time.
His playing career saw him win a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and a host of Bundesliga titles, while donning the Werder Bremen shirt. He was also involved in his nation’s sole World Cup appearance in Spain 1982.
Saturday evening’s game represents the giants of the Oceania region’s most important encounter in over two decades, as they look to book their ticket to the African continent.
When asked of his nation’s chances, the Kiwi legend responded instantly.
“We’re going to win!,” he told Goal.com.
“Look, it’s going to be a packed house in Wellington. The whole country is behind the team, and I seriously can’t see how we are going to lose.”
In front of their rapturous home crowd in the first leg in Manama, the west Asians tantalised New Zealand’s goal – only to fall short actually scoring, leaving the tie wide open.
And given the Kiwis’ home-advantage in the reverse fixture, Rufer is adamant the ball now sits clearly in New Zealand’s court.
“Just forget about the other game in Bahrain, let’s completely forget about it,” he continued.
“It does not matter what happened in the first game; the cards are different this time around.
“I know this from my experience as a player. I know what it’s like to have your home support behind you, and I cannot see how they’re going to lose this game because the atmosphere in Wellington will be amazing.”
According to Rufer, the Kiwis’ position is akin to that of Tasman neighbours Australia during the nation’s successful World Cup qualification campaign for the 2006 tournament.
He notes the similarities with the Aussies’ World Cup play-off with Uruguay this time four years ago, when they proudly dispatched the South Americans to clinch their first World Cup appearance since Rale Rasic’s accomplished feat in 1974.
He added, “It’s exactly like when Australia played against Uruguay last time around, where it was almost not possible for Australia to lose in that game.”
“I know they won on penalties and all, but the support the players had from the entire nation was indescribable, and you just knew that they would qualify. Now, we have got the same situation here in New Zealand.”
Sections of the Australian football media have backed New Zealand in its quest for World Cup qualification, despite the bitter sporting rivalry that exists between the two nations.
“I’d be surprised if it was the other way around, I’m sure the Aussies would rather see team New Zealand going to the World Cup, because at least that way we can support each other over there.
“Also, there are so many connections between the two countries. Look, Shane Smeltz is half Aussie – and even my wife’s an Aussie!
“I look forward to being there, together with all the Aussie fans – it’s going to be brilliant,” he concluded.
Daniel Phan, Goal.com