AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 09: Costa Barbarouses of New Zealand A in action during a match between New Zealand A and NZFC All Stars at North Harbour Stadium on May 9, 2010 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Sandra Mu/Getty Images)
FIFA RANK: 78
One of the best things to happen to New Zealand in its recent soccer history actually turned out to be a loss, and had nothing to do with a match on the field.
The Oceania Football Confederation lost Australia to the Asian Football Confederation and that left the door wide open for the squad known as the "All Whites" or "Kiwi's" to become the dominant team in the region, and they have done just that.
But before we get too excited, lets examine the competition the Kiwi's faced to get to South Africa. Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Fiji and an Intercontinental playoff game against none other than Bahrain! Not exactly powerhouses, but then again, you can only play the teams in front of you.
Well the nations in front of the All Whites in South Africa will be battle tested squads like Italy and Paraguay, and don't dismiss Slovakia who came out of a tough qualifying group in Europe to get to the Cup.
So what do the Kiwi's have going for them? Inexperience and youth. This squad is just happy to be in South Africa so expect them to play free and loose. They also display some American flare. In fact, this team will actually have as much MLS players on its side as the US National Team does. Simon Elliot plays for the San Jose Earthquakes and Andrew Boyens suits up for New York Red Bull.
Want more American ties? Tony Lochhead played soccer at UC-Santa Barbara and Kiwi's captain Ryan Nelsen played at Stanford, then moved onto MLS and England. Keep a close eye on Nelsen, New Zealand goes as he goes. He's a solid scorer who's made some noise the past few years.
I guess you can think of New Zealand as kind of the "Bizarro U-S National Team." Cheer for them if you cheer for US Soccer or boo for them, because that would actually be the bizarro thing to do...anyways, back to the bottom line.
This squad was squashed at the Confed Cup last year so not much is expected, but again, they didn't even expect to be here. But they do have quality players that will play loose, free and compete. I think the Kiwi's will steal a few points along the way, but it will not be enough to get them into the next round.
June 15th VS. Slovakia - 6:30am CT (Great chance to get points early, but lose here and you're practically done)
June 20th VS. Italy - 9am CT (Italy sometimes plays down to its competition, but expect a loss here)
June 25th VS. Paraguay - 9am CT (Paraguay may need the points to advance, Kiwi's could play spoiler)
NEXT ON THE PITCH: SOUTH KOREA