Even though we are lifelong rugby and cricket fans, there are few things we are more eagerly awaiting than the FIFA World Cup, which is just days away now. And we are really, REALLY looking forward to the All Whites' clash against Australia in Melbourne tonight.
We were living in Auckland in 1979 (only briefly mind!), and one wet and cold Wednesday night we went along to Newmarket Park where New Zealand beat Australia 1-nil. We can't remember who the goalscorer was, but we distinctly remember a commanding performance in goal by Richard Wilson. That result (and an earlier win over Mexico) was the genesis of the 1982 World Cup All Whites. And during the qualifying campaign, Adshead's team had two great results against the Socceroos; a 3-3 draw at Mt Smart, and a 2-nil win at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Since then, it's been lean pickings for the All Whites against our neighbours from Oz; the last win I can remember was again at Mt Smart in 2002, which qualified the All Whites for the Confedrations Cup. From memory, a young Ryan Nelsen may have been the goalscorer.
Tonight, that same Ryan Nelsen leads the All Whites of 2010 on to the Melbourne Cricket Ground for a "friendly" that's bound to have some spice. Ricki Herbert has stuck with the same eleven he started the away match against Bahrain with, but there is some exciting young talent on the bench in the form of Chris Wood, Tommy Smith (with an I!) and Winston Reid.
Given that the team has only been together for four days, Herbert's men may struggle to get combinations going tonight, although Australia will be in the same boat. It should be a fantatstic match, and with this being the first time that BOTH New Zealand and Australia have made a World Cup finals, it'll be a great filip for the sport in this part of the world. Had we not been occupied with work over the weekend, we would have been sorely tempted to pay Melbourne a visit tonight.
Bring it on!