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Odds stacked against New Zealand

The odds are stacked against New Zealand as it prepares to take on Costa Rica in the final inter-confederation FIFA World Cup playoff final at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium here on Tuesday.

New Zealand coach Danny Hay was content with the underdog tag ahead of the game. “Undoubtedly, Costa Rica [will feel the most pressure]. The world’s media has written us off, that we have no chance. They are ranked 31, while we are 101. I will be sleeping well, not sure their coach will be though (laughs) because there is a huge amount of pressure on them,” said Hay.

Hay, who expects a physical and cagey affair, will be banking on Newcastle United striker Chris Wood to step up and deliver in another big game to take the All Whites into the finals for the first time since 2010.

Costa Rica has its own big-game players and plenty of experience in the ranks with goalkeeper Keylor Navas, forward Joel Campbell and midfielder Celso Borges.

Coach Luis Fernando Suarez warned of excessive optimism from people back home and identified NZ’s ‘simple, direct football’ strength as a threat to his side.

The winner will join Spain, Germany and Japan in Group E.

( The writer is in Qatar at the invitation of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy)

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