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New Zealand riding high after Peru first-leg draw

Wellington, Sunday @PeopleSports11

New Zealand declared themselves “definitely confident” on Sunday of upsetting Peru in their World Cup qualifying showdown, heartened by a 0-0 draw in the first leg.

As the country toasted keeping Peru scoreless in Wellington on Saturday, coach Anthony Hudson confirmed he expected the side to be at full strength for the return clash in Lima on Wednesday.

The medical reports were positive for his injured star trio, Burnley striker Chris Wood (hamstring), West Ham’s Winston Reid (bruising) and Ipswich Town back Tommy Smith (calf). “Overall, the whole team has had a good recovery session and the medical staff say we’re in a good place … we have a couple that we need to monitor, but nothing serious,” Hudson said as the team prepared to fly to Peru.

He added: “In the next couple of days, we need to make sure we do everything possible to get our best team on the pitch.” New Zealand, ranked 122nd in the world, need only a score draw in Lima to be assured of a World Cup finals berth after keeping the 10th-ranked Peru goalless in the first leg. “We’re definitely confident because we always go away and play against the so-called bigger teams and have always been able to score,” captain Reid said.

“Look, we’re only halfway done. We’ve still got a long way to go, but if we can continue to recover the next couple of days we’ll be ready for the game on Wednesday,” he added. The New Zealand media hailed Saturday’s draw as one of the best results in the football history of a country where the sport takes a back-seat to rugby union.

“The World Cup dream is alive,” trumpeted the New Zealand Herald, adding that even though Peru dominated for most of the match, New Zealand “could even have grabbed a unlikely win, with a Ryan Thomas shot going agonisingly close in the 85th minute.” Fairfax Media described New Zealand as delivering a performance that gave reason for hope. -AFP

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