To get you ready for the drama that will start unfolding on June 11 in South Africa, The Star and The Full 90 will introduce you to the teams, the key performers, what to look for and what to expect in this year's Cup.Group F has two things: A perennial powerhouse and three inexperienced teams. Like this one.
New ZealandGroup F THE BASICS
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All Whites (Rugby team are the All Blacks)
•How They Got Here:
Finished first in a very weak Oceania qualifying group (New Caledonia, Fiji, Vanuatu!) then beat Asian qualifier Bahrain 1-0 in a two-legged playoff
•World Cup Pedigree:
1 World Cup ('82), went three and outTHE PLOT
Can the All Whites figure out how to score goals in time to make their second appearance in the World Cup slightly more memorable than their last?THE DIRECTOR
One of the youngest and inexperienced coaches at the Cup, the New Zealander knows this team like nobody else, but his inexperience in international play won't help this team.LEADING MAN
The Middlesborough striker will be New Zealand's best (and possibly only) goal-scoring threat.SUPPORTING CAST
(forward, Gold Coast - Australia) is a natural finisher on the ground and in the air;Ryan Nelson
(defender, Blackburn Rovers) the former D.C. United man is the rock that will try to hold the New Zealand defense together;Andrew Boyens
(defender, New York Red Bull) is tall, rugged and inexperienced (or, sounds like a lot of his fellow teammates).LIKELY BREAKOUT STAR
The highly touted 18-year-old plays for West Bromwich Albion in the English Championship. He's a big dude (6'3") and is very skilled in the air and will be looking to make a splash on the international stage and interest a bigger team.THE LIKELY VILLAIN
It's really hard to dislike anyone from New Zealand. It's just sort of impossible.PRODUCTION NOTES
Personnel dictates formation for them, probably more so than most countries. Which is why they'll most likely set-up in a 4-4-1-1, hoping to feed Killen (who'll likely play withdrawn) and Smeltz (up top) the ball as often as possible.WHAT THEY'LL WEAR
IT'S SORTA LIKE...
"The Lord of the Rings"
There's a mandate (if you weren't aware) that any mention of New Zealand also has to mention "Lord of the Rings." There's really no analogy to be made, but the movies were pretty awesome.TRAILER
Okay, this isn't a video of the All Whites... it's of the All Blacks, the more famous and, well, better, New Zealand Rugby Team. And, it's about 62 different and distinct kinds of awesome.DO WHAT YOU WILL WITH THIS...
According to a survey, New Zealanders have a percentage of people who have used marijuana than any other nation on Earth.CRITICAL BLURBS
The group draw could've been much worse for New Zealand. Italy is older (but more talented), Paraguay is inconsistent (but more talented) and Slovakia is untested (but more talented). ... Anything more than three-and-out and zero goals could be seen as an accomplishment for New Zealand. ... I don't see New Zealand joining neighbors Australia in the Asian qualifying region any time soon. As long as the All Whites stay in Oceania, they will qualify for the World Cup. And they will always be the strongest third-grader trying to fight a kid in high school. ...Best-case scenario?
Sneaking up on Slovakia and earning a surprise win before dropping to Italy and Paraguay. ...Realistic prediction?
Scoring a few goals, but not making any serious noise.POSSIBLE HOLLYWOOD MOMENT
While they probably just happy to be here, that doesn't mean they'll go quietly into the night. Earning points against any European side (say, Slovakia) will likely send the fans into an uproar. But a victory (their first in World Cup history) would be extra special.
Group A: South Africa
Group B: South Korea
Group C: Algeria
Group D: Serbia
Group E: Japan
New Zealand, Slovakia, Paraguay,Italy
North Korea, Ivory Coast, Portugal, Brazil
Honduras, Chile, Switzerland, Spain
Sources: World Cup 2010 (by Steven D. Stark and Harrison Stark); ESPN and Soccernet.com; FIFA; CIA Factbook