Wynton Rufer will be in Doha on Wednesday to cheer on the All Whites against Costa Rica while wearing a No 9 All Whites shirt with Chris Wood’s name written on the back.
The Oceania Player of the Century will urge Wood and his teammates to achieve what Rufer and the Class of 1982 did 40 years ago: qualify for the World Cup final.
Goals from Steve Wooddin and Rufer secured the All Whites’ 2-1 victory over China in Singapore on January 10, 1982 in front of 60,000 fans barking for the Chinese.
It would be particularly poignant for Rufer to see Wood score – the Newcastle United striker was part of Rufer’s Wynrs Academy coaching school as he took small steps towards a professional career.
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Four decades have passed since Rufer and his 82 teammates became the first New Zealand to reach the World Cup final, when Rob Muldoon (a former footballer) was Prime Minister.
Rufer – in Qatar as a guest of Fifa – will miss the Class of 82 squad meeting in Auckland this weekend. Eleven of the 20 surviving players and coaches John Adshead and Kevin Fallon will meet for an informal catch-up and formal dinner and watch a Chatham Cup match. Family members of the late All Whites central midfielders Steve Sumner and Duncan Cole have also been invited.
The big game will also be the topic of discussion at a Friends of Football luncheon in Auckland on Tuesday, which follows a Center Circle rally in Christchurch last Saturday night. Both organizations have former All Whites among their members.
Bobby Almond – the vice-captain of the 1982 team, was instrumental in organizing the team reunion.
He remembers the playoff win over China in Singapore as “the most important” of their extraordinary 15-match qualifying campaign, with Spain’s three World Cup final matches “a bonus”.
Almond was a colossus against China – he rolled his ankle on the training ground a day after the match and received physio injections and painkillers to play in a match he was never going to miss .
There are many synergies between the Class of 82, Ryan Nelsen’s side that went to the 2010 World Cup final and Danny Hay’s 2022 squad.
Current All Whites assistant manager Rory Fallon – the son of 1982 manager Kevin Fallon – headed the goal against Bahrain which booked the 2010 side’s place in the South Africa final. This 2010 team was coached by Ricki Herbert and Brian Turner, key players in the ’82 promotion.
The All Whites earned $10 million from New Zealand football for qualifying in 2010 and could raise $16.5 million if they progress to the 2022 final.
There was a much smaller payout in 1982 – back then it was all about glory by becoming the first New Zealand team to play on football’s biggest stage.
Rufer spoke to Stuff about the 1982 playoffs before leaving for the Middle East. He had joined the All Whites for two games in the Middle East where he scored three goals, including a brace in a 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia that earned the Kiwis a qualifier with China.
They returned to New Zealand where football fever was at its height. “We were already treated like heroes,” said Rufer, 59.
He didn’t remember feeling particularly nervous in Singapore because he was “young and confident and living his dream”.
But the future Bundesliga star remembers little of his second-half goal in Singapore which gave the All Whites a 2-0 lead.
“A [Chinese] dude hammered me in the first half. I was half concussed and had stitches over my eye, and it was hot and humid that night.
“All I remember is [goalkeeper] Richard Wilson threw it on the field, we’ve seen it a million times, and Grant Turner threw it at me.
Rufer fired a devastating right-footed shot from around 25m into the corner of the Chinese net.
He joked that New Zealand soccer supremo Charlie Dempsey had promised him before kick-off ‘a first class ticket home’ to England, where he was playing for Norwich City, if the All Whites won in Singapore and scored a goal. Rufer scored, but still traveled economy class.
But qualifying for the World Cup put him on display. Before the team arrived in Spain, he was making ‘good offers’ from Swiss clubs. That campaign was the launch pad for a career that led to success in Switzerland and a Bundesliga title, German Cup honors and a European Cup Winners’ Cup medal with the Werder Bremen.
Rufer’s goal in Singapore was as sparkling as the All Whites opener, from Steve Wooddin’s trusty left ankle around the 20-minute mark in the first half.
Wilson again started a long pitch, which was thrown for Wooddin. “I was facing our goal, turned around and hit it,” Wooddin said Monday. “You can tell when he’s going to come in or not, and he was going to the far corner. The guardian was sprawling, but he was never going to get there.
Rufer put the All Whites ahead 2-0, then China scored and Wooddin recalled ‘looking at the clock’ and seeing ’12 minutes to the end’, and thinking ‘ Damn, it’s all there.”
The All Whites only flew to Singapore on Friday, two days before Sunday’s match. “We may have arrived a day too late, we started to struggle with the humidity and the heat and a bit of jet lag, but luckily we held on.
“All the tension just came out of you, all the pressure was gone. It was a very good night afterwards, I can tell you.
There was a similar feeling for Rory Fallon in 2009, when his ‘head from the sky’ earned the All Whites a 1-0 victory over Bahrain in front of a crowded, white-decorated stadium in Wellington.
Fallon said that game was “the first time I felt any real pressure”, but when he saw the 1982 All Whites parade past the crowd at Westpac Stadium, he said to himself: “If we win, it will be us one day.”
The tall forward said in an NZF video last year that he had “never felt so high on a pitch” than when his header thundered into the Bahrain net.
It’s a feeling Wooddin hopes Chris Wood, Winston Reid and the other All Whites will feel in Doha.
He admits he “might be slightly biased”, but he still thinks the 82 team was “the best team New Zealand has ever had”, although he sees no reason why the team of Danny Hay can’t beat Costa Rica, despite being ranked 70 places below. in world rankings.
“It’s a unique game, do or die. I remember John Adshead telling us in Singapore, “You have 90 minutes, do you want to be heroes or non-recidivists?
“There’s so much at stake [on Wednesday]but the actual rewards are so great, and I don’t mean financial.
“The World Cup is the pinnacle of our sport. When we arrived in Spain we were treated like royalty. We had a large coach waiting for us with “New Zealand” on the side which we used for our stay and stayed in a five star hotel by the Mediterranean. It was high end. »
Wooddin, 67, said ‘it doesn’t get better than the World Cup’ and ‘it will be worth the wait’ if the All Whites progress to the final for the first time in 12 years.
He will watch from his Canterbury home on Wednesday, wishing he was “about a million years younger”.