Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Kiwis Find Soccer Lesson in Rugby History

Only in New Zealand.

Well, maybe in South Africa or Australia, too.

We have a professional sports journalist here, at the New Zealand Herald, writing (in all seriousness) a story about how the All Whites -- meaning New Zealand's soccer team -- can "learn from the mistakes" of the All Blacks -- meaning the Kiwis' rugby team -- that were made during the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

Now that soccer/rugby connection/comparison would not have occurred to me.

Here is the link to that story.

The gist of this is ... a former coach of the New Zealand national soccer side says it would be a bad idea for the current coach of the national side to rest players ahead of the Nov. 14 showdown, in Wellington, with Bahrain.

The match that has a 2010 South Africa berth at stake.

Yeah. That match.

New Zealand is the champion of Oceania (Australia the Fair having bolted for Asia), and that got the Kiwis a home-and-home playoff with Bahrain, the No. 5 team out of Asia.

The first leg of the playoff was a scoreless match in Manama, Bahrain, back on Oct. 14.

It's a very straightforward thing, now. If the Kiwis win, they're in. A scoreless tie goes to overtime and then to a shootout.

But any tie in which Bahrain scores ... means Bahrain goes forward on the basis of "away goals." And New Zealand is out. Again. Same as every World Cup since 1982.

And back to the Herald story. New Zealand's soccer talent is so thin (it has one professional club in the country, and it plays in the Australian league) ... that some suggest the Kiwis should make bloody sure no one gets hurt here in the last 10 days before the match.

But the former coach is saying, "No, you have to play matches to be ready for a big match."

And then we have the 2007 rugby World Cup squad invoked. Apparently, that team rested or sat many of its key players before some key matches, and when they finally got back to playing, they were rusty or unfit, or both ... and the Kiwis crashed out.

So. Play the soccer guys ... because we learned our lessons from rugby. Sports which have as little to do with each other as team handball and basketball. But never mind. It's New Zealand, and over there, I'm sure it all makes perfect sense.
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