Facts & figures: New Zealand
World Cup record:
Previous appearances in finals: One
Best performance: group stage 1982
Coach: Ricki Herbert, the perm-headed central defender who was at the heart of New Zealand's defence for nine years, including the World Cup campaign in 1981-82. Appointed All Whites assistant coach in 2003 under Mick Waitt before he took the top job in 2005. Also coach of the Wellington Phoenix in Australia's A-League. Publicly stoic and unemotional, he has imbued the team with a burning passion and desire, characteristic of his no-nonsense playing career.
Ryan Nelsen (Blackburn Rovers). Age: 32. Defender
Widely considered New Zealand's best player since Wynton Rufer. Achieved a political science degree from the prestigious Stanford University in the United States before playing four seasons with D.C. United in Major League Soccer. Transferred to Blackburn Rovers in 2005 on an 18-month contract that was extended after an impressive first season where he had become a mainstay of the defence. A vastly experienced and calming influence who sets the tone for the team.
Shane Smeltz (Gold Coast United). Age: 28. Forward
Bounced around Australia's professional leagues and in England's lower leagues before finding his feet with the Wellington Phoenix. Named Oceania's Player of the Year in 2007 and 2008, and won the A-League's Golden Boot in 2008/09. Good instinct for goal, works hard and links well with the midfield.
Simon Elliott (San Jose Earthquakes). Age: 35. Midfielder
Vastly experienced having spent most of his professional career in the U.S., though a 2-1/2-year stint at Fulham in the Premier League was curtailed by a serious calf injury. Primarily a defensive midfielder he forms a tough backbone of the team with Nelsen. Will need to be at his best in South Africa to support the defence and provide ball for his more attacking counterparts.
FIFA world ranking November 2009: 77
How they qualified: Little trouble in winning the four-team final phase in Oceania with a game to spare and qualifying for the two-legged play-off against fifth-placed Asian side Bahrain. Defended in numbers in the 0-0 draw in Manama. More attack-minded in Wellington with Rory Fallon's first-half header the decider, though needed a second-half penalty save from goalkeeper Mark Paston to ensure qualification with the 1-0 win.
Prospects: Having spent 28 years in the World Cup wilderness they will give it their all, though they are unlikely to advance out of the group. Technically not as sound as most of their rivals and lack burning pace. Securing their first point from a World Cup finals match would be a major boost for the team and the sport in rugby-mad New Zealand.