Welcome to the cauldron.

It's unlikely any New Zealand sports team has experienced the hostile reception the All Whites will face in Lima tomorrow.

Certainly, there is no precedent in New Zealand football, although the sudden-death playoff against China in sweltering Singapore to earn the last place at the 1982 World Cup goes close.

Across other sports, whether it is the All Blacks visiting South Africa or the Black Caps facing Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, nothing can compare to the ferocity, fever and passion that the All Whites will encounter at Estadio Nacional in Lima, again for the 32nd and last place at a World Cup.


Throughout this country of 32 million people, from Iquitos and the Amazon areas in the north to Tacna near the Atacama desert in the South, only one thing matters; breaking a 36-year drought and qualifying for Russia 2018. The desire is palpable; on the streets, inside the bars and restaurants and flashing across most television channels.

There is an added incentive tomorrow. The Peruvian government confirmed, via an official notice, that there will be a public holiday the day after the match - if - and only if - the Peru team wins, to qualify for next year's World Cup.

The match, which kicks off at 9:15pm (3:15pm tomorrow NZT), is set to be an incredible experience.

That became clear today as amazing scenes unfolded around the stadium. By 9am there was a queue that stretched more than 500 metres, with people waiting to pick up tickets they received through the national ballot.

A couple at the front of the line had driven from another city almost nine hours away and had been queuing since 4am.

"It's no problem," said Claudia. "It's normal for us, we have to support the team. Peru tiene que ganar manana (Peru have to win tomorrow)."

The Peruvian team arrived shortly afterwards, prompting mad scenes as supporters clamoured to see their heroes. There were huge drums, even bigger flags, and costumes of every description, with constant chants of "Vamos Peru".

Undoubtedly the strangest sight today was a group of traditional shaman, or medicine men, including one holding a live snake, gathered outside the stadium to put their blessings on the La Blanquirroja and a curse on the All Whites.

They danced, chanted, threw flowers and burnt incense, while offering their pleas to the gods about the match. The ceremony around the New Zealand team was a bit more disturbing, as a team photo of the All Whites was placed on the ground before being repeatedly prodded and stabbed with a stick, with goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic one of the main targets. Large pictures of Chris Wood, Winston Reid and Marco Rojas were also torn up, while the snake was pressed towards the photos.

More chaos ensued when the New Zealand team bus arrived, ahead of their training run.

The All Whites bus tried to enter the stadium in Lima - but was too big to get in!

The crowd rushed towards it, though there was plenty of riot police with shields forming a barricade. For some reason, the driver chose not to use the same entrance the Peruvian team and instead tried to go through another gate, but the bus was too high to get under the roof. After three or four attempts - to the amusement and jeers of local media and fans - the driver abandoned his quest and the New Zealand players got off just inside the gate.

All around the city, Lima is in preparation mode for the match. Huge screens are being erected at different plazas while streets around the stadium precinct will be closed from early afternoon.

"The city is going to stop," said one fan, adorned in the red and white of Peru from head to toe. "We can't wait for this match. I've never seen Peru in the World Cup. So many people have never seen Peru in the World Cup. We can't wait any longer. We have to win tomorrow."