Soccer: Class of '82' revel in Italian draw

By Michael Dickison

These are the moments you live for in football, says the 1982 All Whites captain Steve Sumner.

His then-coach, John Adshead, says "it just doesn't get bigger than this".

"It makes me believe what we achieved all those years ago was worthwhile. All of a sudden people are talking football again ...they're doing that because these guys have shown a rediscovery of mental toughness we haven't seen in recent campaigns," Sumner said.

"It was fantastic. It was a brilliant result. When you put things in perspective - our blokes, some who aren't even full-time football players, playing against the current world champions - it was a stunning result."

New Zealand drew 1-1 against Italy overnight, with the team holding on after an early Shane Smeltz goal.

"The world is sitting up and taking notice," Sumner said.

His 1982 side is the only other All Whites team to have reached the World Cup.

"The game was exactly how it was going to go. The guys got all the determination they could muster and held out," he said.

"When you play the world champions, you're not going to dominate. You take your chances when they come. We had two chances.

"Young [Chris] Wood might have even won it for us. Italy dominated for long periods but couldn't create anything.

"The guys had guts, grit and determination. Keeper [Mark Paston] had two world-class saves.

"That's what it's about. Everybody chipping in. You get a result not because of one player ... but because a whole lot of things go right.
"We've been ably led by Ryan Nelsen and the senior players."

Sumner said he had only got off the plane yesterday after flying in from London, and had not got any sleep - "but it was all worthwhile".

The 1982 squad's coach, John Adshead, said the draw was the All Whites greatest result in their history, achieved at "the Everest of football".

"It's absolutely incredible. I mean, we've talked all week about how things can happen in this World Cup. Things already have.

"These types of results would not have been anywhere feasible in past tournaments. These things didn't happen. You could get close, you could threaten, but never achieve.

"To do it is absolutely monumental," Adshead said.

Both New Zealand and Italy each have one match remaining in pool play to determine who will advance to the last 16.

"It will be interesting to see how Italy are going to take it. One of its journalists wrote before the game that New Zealand presented a bleak lineup of technical inadequacy," Adshead said.

"The fact of the beautiful game - football - is you don't have to be the creme de la creme of technical ability. There's another factor.

"If you're willing to work and defend in numbers and work for each other and play this game in a manner that suits your abilities, you can get a result.

"And the fact that Italy played all the football today, but New Zealand came away with the result, that's their problem and not ours."

Adshead said football successes did not come any bigger than what the All Whites achieved overnight.

"To get a result against the current world champions - they've won this trophy on four different occasions - to come out with a result and face the third game with a realistic chance to get to the last 16: it just doesn't get bigger than this."

He was now at work after hardly getting any sleep, Adshead said.

"It's a Monday but it's a great day. At 5.30am I sat in my lounge, watching the dawn break, and saw it was going to be a clear day - and it is a clear day in Mount Maunganui. And I thought, what a glorious day."

- NZ HERALD STAFF

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