New Zealand will be represented at the 2014 World Cup after all.
While the All Whites failed to qualify for Brazil, Whangarei schoolteacher Peter O'Leary has been selected to referee tomorrow's group F game between Nigeria and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Among the cacophony of 41,112 at Cuiaba's Arena Pantanal, will be some familiar faces, with Kiwis Jan Hendrik Hintz (Auckland) and Mark Rule (Palmerston North) working as O'Leary's assistants.
O'Leary, the head of biology at Tikipunga High School, becomes just the second New Zealander to control a World Cup game.
Michael Hester was the first when he blew the whistle for South Korea versus Greece in South Africa in 2010.
"Peter rang me as soon as he got the news yesterday," said NZ Football's referee development manager Ken Wallace.
"They're delighted and thoroughly looking forward to it. Peter's a very good athlete, he's worked extremely hard for many years. He's got a responsible job and a young family but he puts in a huge amount of hours training each month.
"He takes care of himself, he's employed a psychologist, a nutritionist and has access to physio and massage therapy. He doesn't get fazed by things, he relates well to players and can talk to them on the run."
O'Leary referees in the A-League and has been part of Fifa's programme since 2010. He copes with mistakes by using the "dump and forget" method.
Appointments at the World Cup are performance-based, and referees only learn of their assignments two days in advance.
Wallace had no doubt O'Leary was up to the job tomorrow.
"Peter's done under-20 World Cups, the London Olympics and the Club World Cup," Wallace said.
"He's performed well and he was at the last World Cup as a reserve so he's got experience of the atmosphere and procedures. If they do well they will get the chance of doing another game."
Teams at this year's tournament are noticeably playing more attacking football than in 2010.
"And the referees have played a part in that," Wallace said. "With quality referees you get quality games."
Both Nigeria and Bosnia will be desperate for points tomorrow. Nigeria played out a scoreless draw with Iran in their opening match, while World Cup debutantes Bosnia were impressive but ultimately losers, falling 2-1 against perennial heavyweights Argentina.
Kickoff tomorrow is at 10am.
- The Dominion Post
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