Trans Tasman Rivalry Stirs The Emotions
There’s something about the Trans Tasman rivalry that stirs the emotions of every sports loving Australian. Whether your game is Cricket, Rugby Union, Rugby League or Soccer, there is nothing a sports lover craves more than proclaiming their dominance over their pacific neighbours.
By Ben Coonan
There-s something about the Trans Tasman rivalry that stirs the emotions of every sports loving Australian. Whether your game is Cricket, Rugby Union, Rugby League or Soccer, there is nothing a sports lover craves more than proclaiming their dominance over their pacific neighbours. The rivalry that exists between the green and gold of Australia and the white and black of New Zealand is known the world over. For many years now, epic battles have been won and lost and ego-s have been shattered and glorified, effectively forging a tradition that has been instilled in the heart and soul of every ‘Roo or Kiwi. Tomorrow night, the Socceroos and the All Whites will appease this tradition for the 61st time. With World Cup qualification at stake, fans at Hindmarsh Stadium can expect the first Trans Tasman clash in two years to be a thriller. New Zealand-s All Whites have forever been a thorn in Australia-s side and their history is somewhat parallel to that of the Socceroos. In 1922, New Zealand hosted Australia in their first ever soccer international. On that day, the home side came up trumps, dusting Australia-s inaugural Qantas Socceroo line-up 3-1 in Dunedin. For years thereafter, the Kiwis enjoyed a stint at the top of the Trans Tasman tree (Australia won just one of their first six matches against New Zealand). Unfortunately for fans of the beautiful game in New Zealand, that stretch has not continued and were it not for occasional showings of quality from the All Whites, New Zealand-s soccer history would, overall, be one of bleakness. Now-a-days, the All Whites are forever chasing the shadow of New Zealand-s immortal 1982 World Cup squad. Even though the Aussies have dominated the local scene in recent times, the All Whites can still lay truth to being the last Oceanic nation to qualify for a World Cup finals, that being their Spanish fiesta in the early eighties. Although the tournament was not a successful one for the Kiwis, they did become the first, and only, Oceanic team to score a goal in a World Cup finals match. Steve Sumner and Steve Wooddin scored the All Whites goals in their 5-2 defeat at the hands of Scotland in their opening match in Malaga. Eventually, the 82- All Whites, which featured OFC Player of the Century Wynton Rufer, finished bottom of their group having lost each of their three matches. To this day, the All Whites trip to Spain remains New Zealand-s proudest soccer moment. But, that is not to say that the Kiwis have not coveted themselves in glory in following years. Unquestionably, all of New Zealand-s recent soccer glories have come at the expense of their bitter rivals across the Tasman. In 1998, the Ken Dugdale coached All Whites devastated an already mourning Australian soccer community when they snatched Confederations Cup qualification from the grasp of the Socceroos. Veteran midfielder Mark Burton nabbed a first half winner that announced New Zealand as OFC Nations Cup champions in 1998, rubbing salt into Australia-s deep wound that was still smarting from their failure to qualify for France 98-. Having claimed regional honours, the Kiwis failed to impress on the world stage in Mexico for the Confederations Cup, losing to the United States, Brazil and Germany before exiting at the group stage. Déjà vu struck four years later, when the Kiwis again exploited a nation in grief to outwit the Socceroos 1-0 in Auckland. This time it was US based defender Ryan Nelsen who sunk Australian hearts, following his later winner that put the All Whites into their second Confederations Cup. Again though, New Zealand were found wanting to a wider audience. The All Whites were woeful in conceding 11 goals in three losses to Japan, Colombia and France, with their poor showing apparently providing the basis for Oceania-s direct qualification reneging. Now that the dust has settled on their disastrous campaign in France, the All Whites are looking to refocus. Their road to redemption starts tomorrow night. Current All Whites coach Mick Waitt has, for not the first time, a plethora of overseas-based talent to call upon for this, the seventh OFC Nations Cup. Led by Major League Soccer stars Ryan Nelsen of DC United, Simon Elliott of Columbus Crew, Waitt has notable pedigree to choose from in key areas. Add to this Roda JC defender/midfielder Ivan Vicelich, who is New Zealand-s highest paid sports star and goalkeeper Mark Paston, who is in the form of his life with freshly relegated Division One outfit Bradford City and it becomes clear that the All Whites have what it takes to unsettle their more fancied rivals. The players are there and their hunger for success is just as prominent. What the All Whites need now is results. New Zealand have not won a match since their Nations Cup triumph in 2002, having lost seven times in eight appearances since last July. Their highlight of 2003 was a 1-1 draw away to Bernie Vogts- Scotland. Aside from this, the All Whites went down to Estonia, Poland, United States, Japan, Colombia, France and Iran last year, scoring only five goals in that time. The task is monumental and the chances are unlikely, but if the aura of Trans Tasman football sticks around for tomorrow, you can be assured that anything can, and will, happen. If there is a time to deliver for the Kiwis, it is now.