It's been a long time between drinks for All Whites goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic who will play in Saturday's World Cup qualifying match in Auckland.
Marinovic, locked in a battle with veteran Glen Moss for the No 1 jersey for the match against New Caledonia at Albany, hasn't played in New Zealand since 2010.
"It's very special for me," said the former Kings College student at All Whites training today. "The last time I was back playing was in 2010 when I played for the national under 20s. So it's the first game in New Zealand for me for a very long time.
"I hope this is a chance for me to show them I'm worthy of the No. 1 jersey."
German-based Marinovic says he will not feel any additional pressure of playing in front of a home crowd.
"Pressure is the same here as it is overseas - just don't let in goals!" he laughed.
Marinovic comes into the clash having worn the goalkeeper's jersey for the past 10 matches played by the All Whites including the recent successful trip to the United States to face their national team and Mexico.
But he's acutely aware the seasoned Moss is keen to play for the All Whites again and is capturing the interest of coach Anthony Hudson.
"'Mossy' wasn't there for a while, he was unavailable but it's fair to say I feel a little bit more confident with where I am now," said the 25-year-old custodian. "It's great to have Mossy back in the fold because a quality goal keeper like that pushes you personally and brings you to the next level. But overall I do feel a bit more comfortable with that No 1 on my back.
"We're new to each other. We don't really know each other very well. This is our first meeting. We'll see how it develops over time. Right now I'd say it's definitely a rivalry. But somewhere down the line somebody is going to have to concede and say 'well done' and then it definitely becomes a partnership. It's been fun in training. We've been sharing laughs. You don't dislike somebody just because they're your competition."
Marinovic, who plays for lower division German club SpVgg Unterhaching, is wary of New Caledonia despite New Zealand's overwhelming favouritism for the clash.
"They're very erratic when it comes to their attacking. They're quite furious in their attacking style," he said. "They'll run at you and they'll also shoot from 40 metres out just for the sake of it. So I have to be awake, aware and be ready for anything."
Marinovic, who was called into the All Whites last year by Hudson and made his debut in a friendly against South Korea, is comfortable with the progress of his professional career, despite admitting he would like to be playing at a higher level in Germany.
"I'd like to think that professionally I'm at the start of my career," he said. "Unfortunately, it's taken awhile. I had a bit of a rough time on a club level before I came on the All Whites radar.
"It's now taking steps in the right direction. I would have liked to have been playing somewhere higher this season but it didn't happen like that, so I had to accept that. Looking forward, I have to think in the short term and my club is moving up to the next league which is the third league in Germany
"I like it in Germany. I've been there for seven years now. If you've been there for that long, you become a little more German than you might like. I'm not as laid back as I used to be. But New Zealand beer is still better than German beer!"
Marinovic, who drew strong praise for saving two penalties in a 4-2 shootout with Papua New Guinea in the OFC Nations Cup final last June, first came on the radar of overseas clubs after the New Zealand under-19 team toured Austria in 2008. He gained trials with English Premier League club Everton as well as FC Zurich and FC Schalke 04. But they came to nothing and he returned to New Zealand to play for Waitakere United. Further trials with several German clubs lead to his European career.
He hasn't ruled out a professional career down under, though.
"I want to be playing professionally," he said, "whether that's in the A-League, Germany, Spain or England or wherever, I'll be happy."