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Every four years one thing is for certain: New Zealand is going to be one of the teams with the best odds to advance from their Group at the World Cup championship and any World Cup group prediction invariably must focus on their national team’s dominance and skill.
The only problem is that these New Zealand World Cup projections have nothing to do with soccer.
Soccer is essentially the No. 3 sport in The Land of the Long White Cloud. (That is as long as you don’t include extreme sports.) Rugby dominates the national consciousness with Cricket as the clear No. 2. And, naturally, both of those sports culminate in a championship known as the World Cup. So while this summer the New Zealand soccer team will be competing in the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, it’s safe to say that they aren’t much of a threat to make some noise.
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New Zealand is situated in Group F along with the defending champions, Italy, as well as Paraguay and Slovakia. New Zealand’s odds of winning Group F are presently at 200-to-1. And I think that’s being generous. The All-Whites are presently ranked No. 78 in the world according to the FIFA World Rankings. That makes them the third-lowest ranked team to make the World Cup field. Host South Africa is No. 90 and North Korea is 106.
The All-Whites are making just their second World Cup appearance and their first appearance since 1982. They are the “champions” of the Oceanic Qualifying Region, which boasts football superpowers Fiji, New Caledonia and Bahrain. It was a classic 1-0 win over Bahrain in November that vaulted the All Whites into the World Cup field.
Their first match is against Slovakia and will be played at 7:30 a.m. EST on Tuesday, June 15 at Royal Bafoken in Rustenburg. Slovakia is presently the No. 38 team in the world according to the FIFA Rankings. If New Zealand is going to compete for any points in the Group Stage this is their most likely opportunity to steal a win or a tie. This is their “weakest” opponent on the schedule and maybe the All Whites could pounce on a team that is looking ahead to a crucial contest against Paraguay in its second match.
But I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that isn’t going to happen.
New Zealand’s second match will take place at 10 a.m. EST on Sunday, June 20 at Mbombela in Nelspruit. Their opponent: none other than the defending World Cup champions, Italy.
In New Zealand’s most recent match against a Top 10 national soccer team came last year in the Confederations Cup. They played Spain, the defending Euro champions and one of the favorites in South Africa, and lost 5-0. Granted, Italy doesn’t possess the offensive prowess that the Spaniards boast so the score of an Italy-New Zealand match may not get that out of hand. But there is about a 1000-to-1 chance that the All Whites salvage any points from this contest.
Finally, New Zealand will wrap up group play at 10 a.m. EST on Thursday, June 24 against Paraguay at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane. There are strong odds that suggest that Paraguay, the No. 30 team in the world, will lbe playing for a shot to advance into the knockout stage (depending on how they do in their head-to-head matchup with Slovakia). That means that Paraguay won’t be holding back on a New Zealand team that will already have its bags packed.
Don’t waste your money betting on the team from Middle Earth to do any damage in Group F. (New Zealand was the location for the filming of “The Lord of the Rings Trilogy”.) They are strictly a filler team and if they can manage to stay within two goals of any of their opponents it will be a victory.
Currently, the odds of New Zealand winning the FIFA World Cup this summer are at 1000-to-1. They have the lowest odds on the board and the safe prediction is that they will not win their Group but instead will simply go to South Africa, lose their three games, be happy to get their t-shirt and then leave.