Sophie Heywood has already booked a ticket to soccer heaven except the enormity of the trip hasn't sink in just yet.

That will probably happen when she enters the St Petersburg Stadium on Friday, June 22, for the group E match between Brazil and Costa Rica for the 3.15pm (midnight NZ time) during the Fifa World Cup in Russia.

So how does the 8-year-old from Central Hawke's Bay feel about going to the world's largest global teams' tourney from June 14 to July 15?

"I am a bit nervous but I'm really excited," says the Waipukurau Primary School year 4 pupil who joins Isabel Bristow, of Lower Hutt, Wellington, for the trip of a lifetime after winning a New Zealand Football competition this month.

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That's because the youngster has never travelled in an aircraft before but is delighted to have mother Rebecca Heywood accompany her.

"I don't even know how big the airplane I'll be going on is," says Sophie.

Never mind that she will be with a group of other incredibly lucky youngsters at the venue, also known as Krestovsky Stadium, the home of FC Zenit Saint Petersburg, which can house 64,287 fans.

"I don't think she really understands how big it is," says the teacher aide at her daughter's school.

The prize caught the pair on the hop a little because Rebecca's passport has expired so she has lodged it for renewal together with a first one for Sophie.

Rebecca had almost missed the April 4 deadline to submit the entry by a few hours, after receiving a reply from NZ Football for registering Sophie to play for her school team last year.

The mother also had put an entry for Sophie's brother Cameron, a 7-year-old twin with William, who is two minutes older but plays rugby.

"But he [Cameron] didn't get it," says Sophie who suspects he doesn't know what's going on but their mother is playing it down because he doesn't like to miss out on things.

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It'll be "daddy daycare" for the boys with father Tom because it was Sophie's choice to make it an all-girl trip but Rebecca reckons the boys will feel it when they farewell them from Hawke's Bay Regional Airport in Napier. The pair will have a stopover in Doha on the way to the tourney and back home.

"He wanted to go to Russia as well," says Rebecca of her husband who is a volunteer fireman with the Waipukurau brigade.

Time and expense were the main factors for not turning it into a trip for the entire family.

The twins are with their maternal grandfather, John Turner, of Napier, who is an ardent Napier City Rovers supporter and used to sponsor the club-hosted annual National Under-19 Championship at Park Island.

Sophie Heywood shows Brett Angell (left), mum Rebecca and Carl Jackson, of New Zealand Football, he kicking prowess before taking part in a skills master class in Russia. Photo / Duncan Brown
Sophie Heywood shows Brett Angell (left), mum Rebecca and Carl Jackson, of New Zealand Football, he kicking prowess before taking part in a skills master class in Russia. Photo / Duncan Brown

"We're quite a soccer-orientated family and my dad's had quite to do with soccer," says Rebecca, disclosing Tom's father, the late Roger Heywood, of Devon, England, was also into the beautiful game.

Perhaps what captures Sophie's excitement best is that since she found out on Monday last week that she had won "she hasn't been able to keep her mouth shut".

"She has told just about everyone she has met, strangers or not," says her mother with a laugh.

"They just look at her like, 'Really? Russia?'. They sort of think she's got it wrong and she's actually going to Russell or somewhere like that," she says of the first permanent
European settlement and sea port, situated in the Bay of Islands, in the far north of the North Island.

Rebecca has travelled before, going to Fiji for a holiday with her parents and then embarking on her big OE at 25 around England and parts of Europe.

"I got as far as Prague [Czech Republic] but Russia was the one that I missed out on and wanted to go to, St Petersburg in particular, so it's made my dream come true as well," she says.

Travelling to Russia comes with some trepidation but she's confident there won't be any major issues.

"It's an amazing opportunity and you wouldn't want to give it up unless you really had to."
It is the family's first win in anything. Rebecca sees it as 'just one of those things that's meant to be, maybe'."

They were saving money for Tom to go to Melbourne in November this year for a firefighting staircase challenge akin to the Sky Tower one in Auckland next month, but it got cancelled.

"The money that we've been saving for that has come [in handy] for the Russian one so everything has happened for that reason," she says, feeling Tom's double disappointment but agreeing with him that she deserves a trip after having twins not long after Sophie.

Rebecca played football up to intermediate school age at a social competitive level.

Sophie and mum Rebecca receive the boarding pass from NZ Football commercial manager Carl Jackson (left) and Central Football development manager Brett Angell. Photo / Duncan Brown
Sophie and mum Rebecca receive the boarding pass from NZ Football commercial manager Carl Jackson (left) and Central Football development manager Brett Angell. Photo / Duncan Brown

Fast-food giants McDonald's has everything organised for their six-night visit at St Petersburg with sightseeing as well as Sophie engaging in a "soccer skills masterclass" with other lucky winners from around the world.

Sophie doesn't think her prowess is in the same league as Cameron but is quietly confident she'll come back sharper to make better use of the mini-goal nets planted in their backyard just last week.

For the record, who are they supporting at the World Cup considering the All Whites didn't make the cut?

Mum: "Ooh that's a hard one. I think I'll have to go with Brazil myself."

Sophie cries out: "Costa Rica!"

Mum: "So you're opposing me? My husband and Sophie's father is English so we should probably say England."