Monday, June 28, 2010

Unbeaten And Unbowed

Everyone with even a passing interest in football will have been enjoying this World Cup, where reputations have been turned on their head. France and Italy imploded; England are out, as is USA; African teams haven’t enjoyed the continental bounce they might have expected – but go Ghana!; Maradona is busy growing up as a manager/motivator. And my hometown team, the All Whites from New Zealand, have had an inspirational run which saw them unbeaten and unbowed. Coach Ricki Herbert planned every game meticulously, and inspired the team to play at peak. Who could ask for more?

It was only our second appearance at a World Cup, the first being back in 1982. In that World Cup we lost all three in a group that included Brazil and the Soviet Union. This time, we didn’t lose a single game, holding the 2006 World Champions Italy to a famous draw, which we also did with quality teams from Slovakia and Paraguay. For a country with only 25 professional footballers, that’s some achievement. I served for a time on the board of NZ Soccer and the key decision our CEO Graham Seatter and Chairman John Morris drove during my term was appointing Ricki as the coach. He is a good man and is due immense credit for marshalling his limited resources so well.

The captain Ryan Nelsen was a true inspiration. He organized the defence superbly, and drew the best out of his team-mates. Tommy Smith had an excellent tournament, Mark Paston was immense in goal. They kept out celebrated world-class attacking players such as Roque Santa Cruz, Alberto Gilardino and Marek Hamsik. Shane Smeltz and Rory Fallon worked hard up front and although we couldn’t score many, we didn’t let many in either. Our next step is to develop our midfield and attacking talent (Chris Wood looks promising), and make the next World Cup even more special.

The New York Times called our team ethic one of “rock-solid collective gut”. Our team was a family, and in just a few weeks it turned into a family of five million – New Zealand United. It felt great. None of us is as strong as all of us. Bring on Brazil in 2014.


Anonymous said...

Don't get me wrong - it was a fine result. But, I just can't get excited about the teams who's objective was just not to lose. That is neither winning ugly or believing that nothing is impossible.

Far better to try to actually win - to qualify for the knock-out stages than to just try not to fail.

I can't square the All Whites approach and the Saatchi & Saatchi spirit. Who wants to aim to be second in a pitch? I would rather lose a pitch in style and have the chance of winning it than just being average and not losing.

Rather lose all 3 matches playing attacking football than scrape 3 draws!

Anonymous said...

Kevin Roberts celebrating the mediocraty of not losing - never thouoght I would see that!

That is not what the great teams in any field strive for.

Patrick said...

Thanks for this great post on the All Whites, we own ONSport home of the, and produced all the behind the scenes video content for the team in South Africa. In 3 weeks our videos received over 200,000 views and delivered over 500,000 minutes or 8333hrs of content to rabid All Whites fans. At its peak the site was receiving 11,000 unique visits and serving 35,000 page impressions per day which had it operating at the same level as the entire sports sections of NZ's largest online news sites. A remarkable result for a remarkable team!

Grant Whitehouse said...

In response to the two anonymous posts. Because a team plays well in defence does not mean they do not intend to win. They scored after 7 minutes against Italy following a good forward move. They came incredibly close late in that game also. They scored in the last minute against Slovakia after several goes. Sure they were not peppering the goal, God knows they had their work cut out at the other end, but it is very unfair to accuse them of not trying to win. I ran an event for expats in Sydney for the Slovakia game, and I can tell you not a single kiwi in that place expected anything except a strong effort, and a win. They went nuts when we drew but the overall feeling was pride at a solid effort above expectations. That's all anyone can ask. Try asking the English about that.

Carolyne said...

The two anonymous people seem to have missed the point almost entirely. Did they not see the exhausted New Zealand players crying at the end of the Paraguay game because they had not won. They had certainly believed the impossible was possible. They had played with guts, passion and determination far exceeding that of highly paid, cosseted other teams. If Saatchi and Saachi share the same spirit they could go far!!!