A handful of young boys approach Tim Brown as soon as he emerges from Westpac Stadium.

"Why were there so many fights?" one enquires after Wellington's 2-1 win over Boca Juniors on Friday night.

Brown casually rolls up one trouser leg and reveals a long stud mark up one shin.

"That was one reason," the 29-year-old midfielder says, as the boys look suitably impressed. It was a spiteful, often petulant, match with Boca. It wasn't a good look for either side and Brown often found himself at the centre of it all.

He was booked, hacked, pushed, had a ball kicked at him while on the ground and another thrown at his head as he prepared to take a throw in.

Brown wasn't exactly faultless and he might cringe at some of his actions if he watches a replay. At one time, he feinted a punch before trotting into the middle of the park to leave others to sort out the dispute.

"The boys were giving me a hard time," he says. "They thought I had lost it but I was pretty calm. I was having a good laugh.

"I think they were out to hurt one or two of us. They were leaving their feet in, it all got a bit nasty and I don't think the ref controlled it all that well. It was all handbags, really."

Brown could be forgiven for a little pent-up frustration. Friday night signalled his first start in a football match since fracturing his shoulder against Australia in Melbourne in a World Cup warm-up on May 24. A lot happened in the eight weeks since then.

He saw his World Cup dreams fade, come back and then fade again as his predicament was played out in front of a New Zealand public suddenly engrossed in football and one man's battle to be at the biggest tournament of all. He was a member of the final 23-man squad in South Africa but didn't see any action in South Africa, as Ivan Vicelich claimed his spot in central midfield.

"I absolutely, 100 per cent believe I could have [played at the World Cup]," Brown says. "I did everything I could to play. Afterwards I was a bit disappointed. But at the end of the day I did the right thing, I know, to go there and that's the big thing for me. I know I could have contributed if I was called on. I wasn't.

"Stuff happens. It could have been worse. At the end, I got to go. I know I contributed, not on the field, but in different ways. There was a level of frustration there and it will always stay with me but I think there were a lot of positives, too.

"It was just good to play again [against Boca]. It's been an up and down time for me over the last couple of months. The shoulder feels good and it was just good to put it behind me."

The shoulder still gives him some pain and he needs to improve his range of movement but it's healed sufficiently to play. Herbert started him against Boca to help him overcome any psychological doubts he might have still had about the shoulder.

You could say Brown gave it a full workout against Boca. Now he just needs the shin to heal.