Belfast Telegraph

Hudson glad to see New Zealand on up ahead of Windsor tie

By Liam Blackburn

New Zealand are the biggest movers in the latest Fifa World Rankings.

Anthony Hudson's team, who are preparing to face Northern Ireland at Windsor Park tonight as they get ready for the Fifa Confederations Cup, have climbed 17 places to World No.95.

The OFC Nations Cup Champions are on a great run which has included impressive performances against highly-ranked opposition Mexico and the USA last year, and also advancing to the final stage of OFC Qualifying for the World Cup in Russia.

It is the second time in a year that the All Whites have been the biggest mover in the rankings and Hudson said it was just reward for his team, who have been improving consistently in the past three years.

"This is great news for our team as we get ready to take on the world's best at the Confederations Cup," said Hudson.

"I think it is important to note that we don't play as often as many of our rivals so this is a really good achievement from our team.

"We have long believed that we are better than our ranking suggests and we have a great chance to prove that over the next month at the Confederations Cup.

"Our goal in Russia is to make New Zealand proud and if we achieve that then I am sure we will continue to climb in the World Rankings."

Northern Ireland have fallen two places to 28th.

Meanwhile, New Zealand captain Chris Wood, the 27-goal top scorer in last season's Championship, is grateful to be close to home this week for the friendly with Northern Ireland.

Wood normally makes the reverse journey to represent his country having left home at just 16 to try and make it in England with West Brom.

"It was something I had to do if I wanted to be taken seriously as making a career out of football," Leeds hitman Wood explained.

"At the time it didn't seem like such a big deal. My parents took on a lot of the burden, living apart for a while, moving away from their friends, their family, leaving my sister at home with my mum for a while.

"As I got older, 21, 22, I realised how big a step they had to make for my career.

"It was great to have that courage and that belief from my own family. It's nice that I can hopefully repay them.

"It was all I wanted as a kid. I got to 14 and I wanted to play professionally for the rest of my life.

"I didn't think it was ever possible. I always believed in myself but nobody ever rated me that highly until I got over here.

"It's great to be able to make a career out of it and hopefully a long one to come."

The All Whites are just two steps away from making a convoluted passage to the 2018 World Cup having already advanced to the Oceania play-off by sauntering through the first two qualification stages, remaining undefeated and conceding just once.

Should they progress beyond that two-legged play off, New Zealand would meet the team that finishes fifth in the South American qualification section - Argentina currently hold that place - to determine who makes it to Russia.

A yardstick of how good Hudson's side really are was provided in October friendlies when they drew 1-1 with the United States and lost 2-1 to Mexico.

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