Head to head: Does playing Peru make it easier for the All Whites to get to the World Cup?
OPINION: The All Whites might have sidestepped the star-studded nations of Argentina and Chile, but does playing Peru in a home and away tie next month really make it easier to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia? Football writers Liam Hyslop and Andrew Voerman debate the issue.
Liam Hyslop - Yes
So much of sport is a mental game.
The best players and teams in the world carry an unstoppable aura around them. We know that, we've watched the All Blacks dominate world rugby for the last seven years. Teams walk onto the park and think 'this is going to be difficult'. And it is. And they lose.
In football, individuals, as much as teams hold that aura.
An All Whites defender stepping onto the same field as Argentina's Lionel Messi or Chile's Alexis Sanchez is already thinking 'I'm in for a tough night here'. Never mind them saying in the leadup to the game that they're up for the challenge, it's a completely different prospect when you've got one of the all-time greats of the game running at you.
Would you say the same about Edison Flores? Or Juan Cuadrado? Or Andre Carillo? Two of those players will likely start for Peru against New Zealand in November's intercontinental playoff. The other is Colombian. Can you tell me who is who?
So yes, Peru have been in good form in South American World Cup qualifying. And yes, they are the overwhelming favourites to make it to the World Cup. But getting them is a much better prospect than facing Messi or Sanchez and their cohort of fellow superstars from their respective nations.
Case in point being Messi's performance on Wednesday for an Argentina team woefully out of form. He seemed to say to himself 'bugger it, I'll do this myself'. He was unstoppable, scoring a hat-trick to beat Ecuador 3-1 and lift his team to World Cup qualification. He would have done similar things to New Zealand.
You could sense the All Whites camp got a mental boost from getting Peru. Coach Anthony Hudson talked of having the chance to do something special in November. I doubt the rhetoric would have been quite the same if he was discussing Argentina. It would have been more along the lines of 'what an occasion it will be to have Messi here', almost conceding defeat.
So while Peru remain a tough proposition, I'll take them any day over their more daunting opponents.
Andrew Voerman - No
It is easy to see why Peru were the team Anthony Hudson wanted.
After all, when you compare them to Argentina, Chile, or Colombia, all big countries when it comes to football, they can seem rather small.
But on recent form, the only thing small about them is their name.
This year, the 10 South American teams have each played six qualifiers, and if you look at the results in those matches, Peru seem like a pretty big deal.
Brazil led the way, as you would expect, given that they finished first overall, taking 14 points from a possible 18.
But right behind them were Peru, who had three wins and three draws for a total of 12.
Next were three teams who managed nine - Argentina and Colombia, who qualified, and Paraguay, who did not - then Uruguay, who also qualified, with eight; Bolivia and Venezuela, with seven, Chile with six, and Ecuador with none.
It's an in-form Peru team that is coming here, one that hasn't lost a match in almost 11 months.
You can look at their squad and see no superstars, and it is cute to note that they have one English Premier League player whereas the All Whites have two, but last time out Hudson started a guy who can't make his A-League team, which kind of undermines that point.
There were two options on offer for the All Whites as the final slate of South American qualifiers took place on Wednesday (NZ time). They could have got Argentina, Chile or Colombia, a traditionally strong nation going through a bad patch, or they could have got Peru or Paraguay, a minor player going through a good one.
But whichever way it went, it wouldn't have changed the biggest factor in this tie, which is the form of the All Whites themselves.
In 2009, leading up to the playoff with Bahrain, they had a couple of solid results in the bag - a 0-0 draw with Iraq to end their Confederations Cup campaign, and a 3-1 win in Jordan. They went on and won 1-0 on aggregate.
in 2013, they had next to nothing - no Confederations Cup, a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia that was negated by a 2-0 loss to the United Arab Emirates, a couple of games against Californian club sides, and a 0-0 draw away against Trinidad and Tobago. They went on and lost to Mexico, 9-3 on aggregate.
This time around their buildup has been somewhere in between. They have had big games - two friendlies in June, three matches at the Confederations Cup, and another friendly against Japan last week - but the performances haven't been encouraging. They have rarely been competitive, and over 90 minutes, they have been consistently second best - losing six from six.
If the All Whites make it to the World Cup, it's going to be because they have pulled an 180-minute performance out of the hat at the last minute, not because they got lucky with their opponent.