Soccer: NZ stand up to classy rivals in last friendly

By Chris Rattue

Chile 2 New Zealand 0

Rory Fallon is first to the ball in the All Whites' friendly against Chile at Kanyamazane Stadium early today. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Rory Fallon is first to the ball in the All Whites' friendly against Chile at Kanyamazane Stadium early today. Photo / Brett Phibbs

NELSPRUIT - The World Cup finals burst into noisy, colourful life for New Zealand in a most unlikely place early today.

The All Whites' final warm-up match, against Chile, was originally touted as a behind-closed-doors affair.

All Whites coach Ricki Herbert even wanted this morning's game played at a local park.

Forget images of a sterile, empty stadium. It was anything but.

All Whites captain Ryan Nelsen was absent because of an ear infection, and Kanyamazane Stadium was no place for delicate hearing anyway.

Kanyamazane is just outside the small city of Nelspruit, a four-hour drive from Johannesburg, where the All Whites will play their second World Cup Group F match, against Italy.

African dancers greeted them at the gate and later took to the stands in the tiny stadium flanked by hills.

The small crowd watched Chile's goals come late against a rearranged All Whites side.

A crescendo of noise erupted well before kick-off, thanks to those maddening vuvuzelas, the South African trumpets likely to play a dangerously large part in the tournament. A small band of singing and chanting supporters from Chile sometimes drowned out the trumpets, aided by drums.

The vuvuzelas are everywhere - outside hotel rooms in the dead of night, surrounding the All Whites' training ground, or anywhere you might imagine.

Bright and multi-coloured, they rate at 127 decibels and are said to be louder than a chainsaw. That could be stretching the point, but you won't find a stadium full of buzzing chainsaws.

Match officials, coaches, players and commentators are in for a battle. Sign language might be in order. The effect in World Cup stadiums such as Soccer City in Johannesburg hardly bears thinking about.

At this stage, the vuvuzelas are a love-hate business. They represent one of the most wonderful aspects of sport, the unrehearsed enthusiasm that drives soccer around the world.

But the thought of that constant loud trumpet noise is something else. A cowbell rates at around 115 decibels, so the Waikato rugby experience is a mere tinkle in comparison.

Much of what you see around Johannesburg reeks of poverty, but this World Cup should be rich in spirit.

NZ are pour cousins skill-wise compared to teams such as Chile, a quick side who threatened to tear the All Whites apart and even out-jumped them in the afternoon heat.

But as is the way with this NZ team, they hung on - miraculously at times - and created the odd chance.

Winston Reid initially commanded the central defensive role owned by Nelsen. Herbert started a fairly strong side. Despite his claim that the match was irrelevant, a heavy defeat would still have hurt.

- NZ Herald

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