Rustenburg: New Zealand will take on an experienced Slovakian side today in Group F match in Rustenburg. The All Whites are making their only second appearance in World Cup history. The last time they qualified was in the year 1982 in Spain where they lost all the matches.
"There are a few nerves, a sense of anticipation," admitted Ricki Herbert, New Zealand coach. "But that is not a bad thing. The players are very focused on what they have to do," as according to fifa.com reports.
They will be taking on the talented Slovakia side which knocked out Poland, Czech Republic, Russia to make it to the World Cup. The team is regarded as one of the weakest teams in the competition, however their win against Serbia in the warm up friendly would have surely given them a major booster ahead of its clash against Slovakia.
Skipper Ryan Nelson who also captains English club Blackburn Rovers is considered to be the star player for the All Whites. They have some injury worries as midfielder Tim Brown is still recovering from shoulder surgery and is likely to miss the first game.
Meanwhile, the Slovakians are pretty confident about their first outing and is hopeful of a win. Slovakia have the likes of Marek Hamsik and fellow veteran Simon Elliott in their side. Brown's likely replacement is defender Ivan Vicelich who is expected to bolster the central midfield.
And they also have a good striker in the form of Stanislav Sestak, who plays in the German Bundesliga for Bochum. Slovakia have eight World Cup experiences before this tournament.
The match is set to be tough one for the New Zealanders on paper and on record but the All Whites will be hoping to give a tough fight to the Slovakians.