Spending time in South Korea over the past few days has given a timely reminder of our place in the football world.

The sport is everywhere here. There's wall-to-wall coverage on television and in newspapers, and several magazines devoted exclusively to the game. The standard of the local club league is frighteningly good and the number of Koreans plying their trade overseas increases all the time.

The All Whites have trained daily at the plush Korean Football Association complex in the northwest of Seoul. There are six immaculate grass pitches, complete with underground changing rooms. Each field is self-contained, separated by wire fences and large trees and all have grandstands or viewing areas of differing sizes. Towering above the main field is a six-storey administration building, flanked by restaurants, dormitories and a hotel.

It's something New Zealand could never hope to match off the field - though if the Auckland Council had some foresight then the grounds around QBE Stadium might make a perfect football hub - and shows the infrastructure and resources that New Zealand Football is up against.


In the next few months Fifa will make its final decision on 2018 World Cup qualifying paths and it seems likely Oceania will face a playoff with the fifth-placed Asian nation.

That could be Uzbekistan, Iraq, Australia, China, United Arab Emirates - or even South Korea.

So how do we possibly bridge that gap? All Whites coach Anthony Hudson has put his faith in a high-energy, intense-pressing, possession-based game plan that will be filtered through all of our men's age group teams. He's also put an emphasis on youth - which means some established senior names may not see much more time in the national fold.

To Hudson's credit, we haven't had an All Whites coach with such a detailed plan and grasp of what he wants and how it will be achieved in decades. The team have been superbly prepared in the past seven days and go into tonight's match with a level of information on their opponents probably unprecedented.

Will it be enough tonight? Probably not. Will it count in the long run? Almost certainly.