Monday, March 22, 2010

Kiwis Don't Expect to be Whipping Boys

Well, sure. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

This story has been around for a few days now, "New Zealand can be competitive" ... and I have left it alone. But I now am in the mood to take on this sort of topic.

Like this:



This is one of those bits of optimistic nonsense that invite sarcasm.

The man speaking here is Ryan Nelsen, New Zealand's captain ... a title which, in this case is like being named captain of the Titanic -- people are a bit more inclined to remember your part in this disaster. (The Titanic's captain was name Smith. I know that without looking it up. See?)

"We are competitive now," he said.

On the basis of what? Defeating Bahrain to gain the final berth into South Africa 2010? Bahrain. Winning a home-and-home with Bahrain means you can "compete" on the world stage?

Uh, no.

In the past, Cap'n Nelsen said, "we haven't had many goalscorers or too much experience but I think we've got quite a bit of that now."

Hmm. Well, let's check. Scroll to the lower half of this wiki entry and find the roster of New Zealand's players and see where they play. I'll wait. (Hmm-de-hum ...)

How many of the Kiwis play for a serious professional side? Well, Nelsen plays for Blackburn Rovers in the Premiership, and is captain there, as well. That's nice. But ... that's also about the end of "serious club football" players. Unless you count Major League Soccer, and not even Americans do.

As for all that All Whites scoring prowess and experience ... perhaps he's talking about matches for the Wellington Phoenix and Gold Coast United. Which will not, we dare say, prepare you for Italy or even Paraguay and Slovakia -- the other countries in the seriously weak Group F.

"We are going to be very competitive ..."

Well, yes, we expect you will show up and run around.

"And if some teams have a bad day and we have a good day, you never know ..."

If those teams having the bad day are Bahrain or perhaps New Caledonia ... but Paraguay on a bad day beats you 2-0.

"I think a lot of teams will underestimate us, and that's what we want."

Had nothing to do with what you want. You will be estimated accurately -- as the softest mark in the tournament.

If New Zealand scores, it's a good World Cup for the Kiwis. If it somehow manages some ugly 0-0 tie after bunkering in for 90 minutes ... it becomes a great World Cup for the All-Whites.

But that probably is too much to expect. This appears to be the most overmatched World Cup crew since the U.S. in 1990 ... or maybe Canada in 1986.

I would like New Zealand to get to South Africa and actually be competitive. I just don't see it happening.

We don't expect the Kiwis to say "we expect to get our heads handed to us three straight times out" ... but it might be better to leave it at, "We're going to play as hard as we can and see how it turns out."

Anything more than that is being not quite honest.
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