Football World Cup: Striker Chris Wood determined to take All Whites back to centrestage

Striker Chris Wood is determined to put 12 years of World Cup suffering to bed, when the All Whites face Costa Rica for the final place at the FIFA's global showpiece.

New Zealand’s all-time men's leading goalscorer was just 18, when he got a taste of the Football World Cup, but admits he has unfinished business on the world stage.

Wood never imagined it would take more than a decade to get back to football’s pinnacle event.

"When I was in South Africa 12 years ago, I thought this would be happening every four years, going to a World Cup, but it soon changed."

Wednesday morning's clash (NZ time) against Costa Rica will be New Zealand’s third attempt at reaching those heights again, after defeats to Mexico and Peru saw them miss the 2014 and 2018 tournaments.

Chris Wood celebrates a goal at the Tokyo Olympics
Chris Wood celebrates a goal at the Tokyo Olympics. Photo credit: Photosport

"To have beaten Bahrain through to the World Cup, I thought, 'This is fantastic, this is easy'," he told Newshub. "Then you soon learn the downside, the hard side and suffering that's fuelled me and every other player who has been through the heartache."

The English Premier League forward's desperate for a second chance to leave a lasting international legacy .

"I didn’t get to put the stamp or impression I want on the world stage," he said. "Now I'm at prime years, this is perfect opportunity for me, so I'm very much hopeful and determined to get us back there."

That road back will get easier from 2026, with the World Cup expanding to 48 teams and the winners of Oceania earning an automatic spot, but in typical Wood fashion, he'd rather not take the easy way out. 

"You can have that final stamp of 'yes, we done it the hard way to get through', and that's something we will be able to take on and be heroes like the 2010 and 1982 teams... everybody done it the hard way with those."

A heroic effort will be needed to stop Costa Rica, who have made the last two World Cups, and reached the quarter-finals in Brazil in 2014.

Join us at 6am Wednesday for live updates of the All Whites v Coast Rica World Cup qualifying playoff

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