A football passion like no other

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They flooded the streets of Wellington, their drums beating, their  red and white flags waving and their chants echoing through the crisp morning air. In the eerily quiet heart of enemy territory, Peru's passion resonated. 

In the hours leading up to New Zealand's first leg World Cup play-off against the fifth-placed  South American nation, Peru's small but committed group of travelling fans provided a glimpse of the football fervour that grips their diverse continent and a small vision of what will be waiting for the All Whites at Estadio Nacional on Thursday (AEDT).   

Based in Wellingotn for the match, I was struck by the contrasting fans. Where the All Whites fans came alive inside the cake tin, the Peruvians partied across the weekend, lighting up the streets and bars in the days leading up to the match.  

Set against the backdrop of colossal Peru flags effortlessly cutting through the through windy Wellington air, I was left to reflect on the magnitude of the task awaiting New Zealand in the suffocating altitude of a stadium that has broken many hearts throughout this World Cup qualifying campaign. In fact, of the nine teams to attempt the feat, only Brazil and Chile left the capital with a win. 


New Zealand's hopes of qualifying for Russia will rest as assuredly with how the players handle an atmosphere they're likely to have never experienced before, with how they deal with an opposition high on confidence on the pitch.