Soccer: All Whites watershed -1980 game

By Michael Brown

Brian Turner (centre) scored over Mexican goalie Ignacio Rodriguez during the All Whites' famous 1980 4-0 win at Bill McKinlay Park. Photo / John Sefton
Brian Turner (centre) scored over Mexican goalie Ignacio Rodriguez during the All Whites' famous 1980 4-0 win at Bill McKinlay Park. Photo / John Sefton

The All Whites would take any result against Mexico in their World Cup playoff next month, but more than 30 years ago, at a ground that holds 100,000 fewer than the famous Azteca Stadium, they humbled El Tri 4-0.

The match, at Bill McKinlay Park in 1980, is widely acknowledged as the start of New Zealand's 1982 World Cup campaign. It was the first time Kevin Fallon was beside coach John Adshead; it also heralded a change in the make-up of the squad as Ricki Herbert, Keith McKay, Grant Turner, Steve Wooddin and John Hill made their debuts.

Turner and Wooddin impressed immediately with goals, and McKay was named man of the match as he buzzed around the midfield in customary style.

The Herald reported the next day it was a "glorious chapter in New Zealand soccer history" and a "magnificent team effort".

"New Zealand's standing in world soccer has rocketed following the victory," the Herald said.

Captain Steve Sumner recalled this week that a bizarre pre-game display did little for Mexico's chances. "I remember lining up with those guys and when their names were announced each player would step out, do a little Mexican dance and go, 'woohoo'," Sumner said.

"They all did it, they were that confident. This was 1980. You didn't do that sort of thing. You might stand there and, if you were lucky, raise your arm and wave to the crowd. After looking at these guys we couldn't wait for the whistle to go so we could get into them."

Brian Turner opened the scoring in the fifth minute with a penalty and the All Whites led 3-0 at halftime as they pressured Mexico deep in their own half. Grant Turner scored the final goal with a glancing header.

"We got a tremendous amount of confidence from that match," Adshead recalled. "Mexico were highly rated, as they still are. It was early days in our campaign and a practice match but it was a great platform to build from."

Among the 5000-strong crowd was Australia coach Rudi Gutendorf, although he tried to go unnoticed. Adshead recalls Gutendorf comically tried to disguise himself by wearing a cap pulled low and a big overcoat.

"I go home tomorrow not worried about Mexico, but I have to worry about New Zealand a little bit," Gutendorf said after the match. He was right to be worried, as the All Whites famously beat Australia and qualified for the World Cup.

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