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    Group F: New Zealand v Slovakia preview


    by ODN


    New Zealand's footballers have held their final training session at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, before their match against Slovakia on Tuesday.

    Coach Ricki Herbert leads his team into their opening Group F match 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 38th-ranked Slovakia.

    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.

    Their mixed form in warm-up games - beating Serbia and then losing to Chile - has given little indication of what to expect against an equally unsung Slovakia, making their first appearance in the finals as an independent nation.