Expectation and excitement in New Zealand is on the rise after a memorable 1-0 win over Serbia in Austria.
The All Whites looked comfortable against the European outfit, even though they lacked a number of first teamers.
Shane Smeltz ended a dry patch with a well taken goal, and a clean sheet for the new look defence, which had Ryan Nelsen marshalling newcomers Tommy Smith and Winston Reid, was also encouraging.
Jeremy Christie was solid as a second midfield workhorse, and the front three, especially Rory Fallon, showed more movement than in any game in the past year.
Fallon dropped deep for the goal and stayed mobile enough to flick on Reid’s long ball for an assist for Smeltz.
The result was just reward for another encouraging performance, coming days after their last gasp defeat to Australia in Melbourne.
Maybe it was against a team neither at full pelt, nor full strength – the Serbs were without their talisman and captain Dejan Stankovic, of Internazionale – but it was still a game to take inspiration from.
Back in Aotearoa, the result over the number 15 ranked team has been heralded as one of the nation’s best ever results.
Another win in Austria over neighbouring Slovenia at the weekend could continue to raise expectations and confidence of making a significant impact.
Victory over the Slovenes could also strike worry into World Cup opponents Slovakia – the former Yugoslav republic took maximum points from Vladimir Weiss’ team in qualification, their only defeats.
Let’s hope the levels of confidence and performance can continue their upward trend and peak at the right time.