Welcome Back, Antipodes: New Zealand returns to the FIFA World Cup
It is official: the Antipodes are back in the FIFA World Cup.
Four years ago, Australia rode on the penalty-shooting prowess from John Aloisi to clinch a spot in the 2006 FIFA World Cup over Uruguay. They ended a 32-year absence from the beautiful game's greatest stage.
Fast forward four years later. New Zealand's All Whites are returning to the World Cup for the first time since 1982 with a 1-0 victory over Bahrain at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
And the John Aloisi of New Zealand is a young rising star in Plymouth Argyle's Rory Fallon. His 45th minute wonder header from Leo Bertos eluded Bahraini goalkeeper Sayed Jaffer.
On top of clutch set pieces, clutch saves define the winners from the losers.
And All Whites keeper Mark Paston made some impressive saves that rivalled those of his Socceroo counterpart Mark Schwartzer. He made a critical save on a Sayed Mohamed penalty in the second half.
Defensively in the second half, New Zealand frustrated Bahrain in their own half, although they could have done better on a number of opportunities in the Bahrainis' half.
The setback for Milan Macala's national team adds to their recent qualifying woes.
In 2005, they fell to Trinidad & Tobago in the home-and-away series. This time, the Oceania champions sucker-punched their ticket to South Africa into the waters of Cook Strait.
35,194 filled the Ring of Fire dressed in All White, feasting on the throes of history. The scenes of jubilation evoked similarities to the reaction of their neighbors across the Tasman in 2005 when the Socceroos went to Germany for their first time since 1972.
Now, for the first time ever, Australia and New Zealand have qualified for the FIFA World Cup together.
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