20 June 2010-Daniel Phan
New Zealand’s greatest ever football export, Wynton Rufer, insists there is no expectations on the team to attain results against Italy and Paraguay following its historic 1-1 draw with Slovakia in its opening World Cup Group F clash.
The Oceania Player of the Century said Ricki Herbert’s men had already done the nation proud, and that its second World Cup appearance would be considered a success regardless of its final points tally.
New Zealand defied the odds against Slovakia when Winston Reid converted Shane Smeltz’ cross in stoppage time to secure the All Whites’ maiden World Cup finals point, adding to the euphoria that has swept the nation since it defeated Bahrain in November to qualify for South Africa.
“It’s been unbelievable and brilliant,” Rufer said.
“New Zealand has been riding on a massive wave since November, when we qualified, and the whole nation has been captured by this whole World Cup fever, so now to just actually to get a point in the tournament is just unbelievable..
“Even without the result that we’ve had, the whole game’s just reached a different and unprecedented level here.
“Getting a result like this is just adding to the whole fairytale – romancing the World Cup fever. We’re just riding an incredible high and at the moment it doesn’t seem to be ending.
The ex-Werder Bremen star conceded that the Kiwis’ chances of obtaining a point against world champion Italy was slim, though did not rule out the possibility of a second round berth.
“It’s fairly difficult now, especially against Italy – the current world champions and normally one of the favourites for the tournament – but as an underdog we just have to take it as it comes.
“You just got to take it game by game and see how the other’s results go. At the moment it’s really open and you never know what might happen.
“The guys have got no pressures for performing under expectation.
“As long as you get a result, which they did in the first game, you’re always in there with a shout,” he added.