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New Zealand aim to wipe out bad memories

New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert leads his team into their opening Group F match against Slovakia on Tuesday hoping to spring a surprise and erase painful memories of the 1982 tournament in Spain.

sports Updated: Jun 15, 2010 02:04 IST

New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert leads his team into their opening Group F match against Slovakia on Tuesday hoping to spring a surprise and erase painful memories of the 1982 tournament in Spain.

As a 21-year-old defender in New Zealand's only previous World Cup appearance, he burst into tears on the bus en route to their opener when he was left out of the side to face Scotland.

They lost that match 5-2 and were also thrashed by the Soviet Union and Brazil but Herbert will never forget sitting on the bench for his country's first ever World Cup match. It was the biggest disappointment of his playing career and a spur to him and his 'All Whites' players to belie a world ranking of 78 by upsetting Slovakia (38).

"I understand why we are the underdogs but we don't fear anyone," he said. "Anything can happen in a cup competition. If Senegal can beat France (in 2002), we can beat Italy!"

Herbert's confidence may be one of New Zealand's best weapons as he tries to inspire a team, well beaten three times in South Africa during the 2009 Confederations Cup, to rise to their biggest soccer challenge in three decades.