Long night, lederhosen and a love of the game – Kiwi-based fans prepare for start of 2018 World Cup

It is taking place 13,000km away in Russia, but as Chris Chang reports, football fever is gripping fans in New Zealand. Source: 1 NEWS



Jump on the bandwagon! Five football nations Kiwi fans can get behind at the World Cup

The All Whites last November were just a game away from making this year's World Cup in Russia after a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their play off with Peru.

A subsequent 2-0 loss in Lima saw New Zealand's hopes of returning to football's biggest stage after South Africa in 2010 scuppered, but never the less there's still plenty of teams for footy fans in Aotearoa to get behind in Russia.

Here's a few nations Kiwis might feel inspired to follow:

Uruguay's Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring the winner against England Source: Associated Press

Uruguay

A nation of around four million people who always punch above their weight in their national sport and are multiple world champions? Sounds like New Zealand doesn't it? Well, Uruguay may just be the South American version.

The case is especially convincing if you consider the fact Uruguayans and their flag are notoriously confused with big brothers Argentina (sounds a lot like our trans-Tasman relationship, doesn't it?).

All that aside, the two-time World Cup winners are a bold side that have always punched above their weight in major tournaments considering their relatively small size. Not only that, they've produced a number of exceptional footballers over the years including Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan.

Arguably the strongest side in Group A along with hosts Russia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Uruguay are almost a certainty to progress into the round of 16 and beyond.

MELBOURNE,  - JUNE 13: Robbie Kruse of the Australian National Soccer Team (Socceroos) looks for options during the International Friendly Match Between Brazilian National Football Team and the Australian (Socceroos) National Football Team on June 13, 2017, at The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in Melbourne, Australia.(Photo by Jason Heidrich/Icon Sportswire)
Robbie Kruse of the Australian National Soccer Team (Socceroos) Source: Photosport

Australia

They may no longer play within the Oceania federation after moving to Asia but the Socceroos still fly the flag for the Pacific, if what symbolically.

The Aussies have made it into their fourth consecutive World Cup but are up against it in Group D where they've been pitted against France, Denmark and Peru. Of course if New Zealand had beaten Australia's South American rivals they would have ironically been pitted with the Socceroos in Russia.

Don’t forget veteran midfielder Tim Cahill returns for what will surely be his final World Cup campaign. The former Everton man who has strong Pasifika ties through his Samoan heritage is certainly one to watch.

Never the less, Australia will be a side most Kiwis will either be rooting for, or against.

Iceland's captain Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after his team scored against Kosovo, during the World Cup Group I qualifying soccer match between Iceland and Kosovo in Reykjavik, Iceland, Monday Oct. 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Brynjar Gunnarsson).
Iceland's captain Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after his team beat Kosovo to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Source: Associated Press

Iceland

Iceland were the darlings of Euro 2016, a country of 350,000 people setting the tournament alight with a quarter-final run.

Now Iceland look set to attempt another giant-killing run in Russia. They’ll have a huge ask escaping what many consider to be the "group of death" in Group D with Argentina, Croatia and Nigeria.

But with their convincing form in qualifiers, there's a chance the Iceland supporters' famous Viking clap might be heard long into the tournament.

If you're a sucker for supporting the underdogs then you could look no further than Iceland.

Brazil midfielder Roberto Firmino celebrates Source: Associated Press

Brazil

The world's greatest footballing nation is back for their 20th consecutive World Cup (Brazil have never failed to qualify). The team every neutral loves to watch come to Russia accompanied by strong form after cruising through the South American qualifiers.

If your hoping to see skill, flair and footballing magic that is a delight on the eyes then you can't go wrong with the Samba boys. Led by stars like Neymar, Philippe Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus and Thiago Silva, Brazil look strong contenders to win their record sixth World Cup in Russia.

History is also on their side with the South American giants the only non-European side to win the World Cup on the old continent when they claimed the 1958 title in Sweden, beating the hosts 5-2 in the final.

With the ghosts of that horrific semi-final loss to Germany behind them, Brazil look like they're set to return to football's throne.

Harry Kane celebrates scoring England's first goal in their friendly against Turkey. Source: Associated Press

England

The Three Lions seem to be the default side most Kiwi fans lean towards at major football tournaments. But for many England fans, supporting them at World Cups is a painful experience.

England haven’t won a knockout game at a major tournament in 12 years. That last victory was a 1-0 win over Ecuador in the round of 16, courtesy of a David Beckham free kick.

This year however, coach Gareth Southgate has been blessed with a range of talented players including Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling. Whether these stars gel and the English move past their historic psychological problems in pressure situations will be what defines England's performance in Russia.

In Group G England have been paired with dark horses Belgium, African minnows Tunisia and debutants Panama. This year is as good of a chance as any to finally see England make it out of the group an beyond.

Victor Waters is a TVNZ producer and contributor to Kiwifootball.co.nz


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The likes of Dan Corbett, Jenny-May Clarkson, Jack Tame, Wendy Petrie and other were filmed showcasing their football skills.

1 NEWS NOW will have comprehensive coverage of the Football World Cup from Russia over the next month.

The likes of Jack Tame, Jeremy Wells and Dan Corbett got into the spirit. Source: Breakfast