Top 10 All-Whites of All-Time
The NZ All-Whites is the name given to the New Zealand national football team. While the NZ All Whites didn’t come along until 1922, New Zealand’s history with football dates back much further. The first international football match occurred in 1904 in New Zealand at Dunedin’s Old Caledonian Grounds.
With Rugby being such a dominant sport in New Zealand, football has naturally enough waned in popularity. As a result, the national football team have not covered themselves in glory on the world stage. However, a number of All-Whites did go on to do their country proud on a football pitch.
In this article, we will look at the 10 best All-Whites players of all time (in no particular order). We’ll cover their achievements on the field, along with the accolades that have earned them a place on our list of greatest All-Whites players of all time.
Ryan Nelsen may have only been with the NZ All-Whites for a short period of his career, but he made a valuable impact on the team. He has always had a connection to football, as his father was a professional player and his grandfather was part of the NZ Football Association.
Throughout most of his career, Nelsen played in the US and England. However, he did debut for the All-Whites in 1999. He played with the team 49 times between 1999 and 2013. One of his career highlights is being captain of the All-Whites during the 2010 World Cup Finals. This was the first time the team played the final since 1982! To this day he is also a Blackburn Rovers legend and one of the hardest centre-backs the English Premier League has ever seen.
Winston Reid is one of the best NZ All-Whites over recent years. While he was born in New Zealand, he moved with his family to Denmark when he was 10 years old. However, his love of football brought him back to his roots.
Reid started his career playing in Denmark. But, when the All-Whites found out about his background, they persuaded him to play internationally. His NZ career started in the youth league for FC Midtjylland.
He officially started playing for the All-Whites in 2010, eventually becoming the captain. He also became a regular for West Ham United in the English Premier League, spending just under a decade with the East London club.
In 2022, he announced his retirement and his final match was against Australia in Eden Park.
Wynton Rufer is a retired striker who is still named one of the best football players to play for the NZ All-Whites. However, when Rufer was in the prime of his career, NZ television wasn’t paying attention to European football.
Rufer made a name for himself in the league as a teenager when he scored an impressive goal against China. This goal helped bring the All-Whites to Spain for the 1982 World Cup.
During his career, he also played for Germany and Switzerland. He was most successful when he transferred to the German club Werder Bremen. In 1992, he won the European Cup Winner’s Cup final. Rufer was also named Oceania Footballer of the Century.
Steve Sumner had a 12-year career in football from 1976 to 1988. He played a total of 105 games for the All-Whites and was best known for his skills as an attacking midfielder. He is still named as one of the NZ All-Whites’ best captains to this day.
One of Sumner’s most impressive games was in the 1982 World Cup game when New Zealand defeated Fiji 13-0. Sumner was inducted into the New Zealand Soccer Media Hall Of Fame in 1991. He also received the FIFA Order of Merit.
Michael McGarry is another notable attacking midfielder that left a lasting impression on the All-Whites. He began playing New Zealand football in the late 1980s and continued through the 1990s.
Throughout his career, many teams tried to convince him to play for them, most notably Newcastle United. However, he remained with New Zealand football for the majority of his career. The only time he wasn’t with New Zealand football was when he spent a season in 1989 playing football for the Sydney Olympics with the National Soccer League.
Many New Zealand football fans believe Ricki Herbert retired too early in his career. He played as a defender for the NZ All-Whites during the 1982 World Cup. While he played some impressive international matches with NZ, most of his career was spent playing with Mt Wellington and Sydney United.
While his career playing football was short, his relationship with the game was anything but done. Herbert went on to have a very successful coaching career after he retired from playing. In 1990, he began coaching Papakura City AFC. A few years later in 1993, he started coaching Papatoetoe AFC until 1996, when he coached for Central United.
Vaughan Coveny had a remarkable career on the pitch from 1992 to 2006. The majority of his career was spent playing for South Melbourne FC. However, the later part of his career was spent in the Victorian Premier League.
So, you might wonder why a player from New Zealand who played for Australian leagues makes it onto the list of the top 10 All-Whites’ players. He did play for the All-Whites in international matches. In 2006, he was the highest-scoring player in NZ’s victory over Georgia (May 27, 2006). This put him as the All-Whites’ game record holder at the time. However, that title was eventually taken by Ivan Vicelich in 2009.
Shane Smeltz is a fan favourite player for many New Zealand football fans. During his career, he played across a number of leagues. Smeltz got his start in Australia before going to play in England. He made international appearances for the New Zealand All-Whites, from u20s to senior level, between 2003 and 2017.
Smeltz was a notable player with the All-Whites. Throughout his career with the national team, he earned 58 caps. His great skills and consistency earned him New Zealand Footballer of the Year in 2007. He also made an appearance at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Ivan Vicelich had a monumental run with the All-Whites, having 96 caps. He first debuted for New Zealand football as a substitute in 1995. However, it didn’t take this attacking midfielder to make an impression. He ended up playing in the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup finals just a few years later.
He started playing as an attacking midfielder but switched to playing defender when he played NZ football internationally. In 2008, he announced his retirement. However, when Ryan Nelsen was injured, Vicelich was called back to play as a replacement in the 2009 Confederations Cup tournament. He also made himself available to play in the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Steve Wooddin joined the NZ football All-Whites team in 1980. He was one of the team’s leading strikers and played a significant role in helping them qualify for the 1982 FIFA World Cup event. In the tournament game leading up to the 1982 FIFA World Cup, Woodin was 1 of only 2 players from the All-Whites to score against Scotland. (Steve Sumner was the other player.)
While Wooddin seemed to be off to an impressive start, his career was cut short. In 1983, he experienced injuries which prevented him from playing. He could only compete in 2 games with New Zealand football that season.
Wooddin came back to the All-Whites in 1984, where he scored in the winning game against Fiji. However, he was forced into early retirement that year because of his injured ankle ligaments.
The All-Whites have been part of New Zealand football history for over 100 years. There have been many talented players that have helped this team on the field. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to mention all of the great New Zealand players today. Here are some other names in New Zealand football that deserve a spot on the list of the greatest players.
Chris Wood is among the youngest players to leave their mark with New Zealand football enthusiasts. Wood was only 18 when he played with the team during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. He came in as a substitute but made a lasting impression with his first international goal against Honduras, preventing the All-Whites from a defeat. The Auckland native has since gone on to become the greatest goalscorer in All-Whites history. He has also had successful spells at Leeds United, Burnely, and Newcastle United in the English Championship and Premier League. He is currently plying his trade at Nottingham Forest.
Brian Turner went from being one of the most outstanding All-Whites’ players to the team’s assistant coach. This footballer made his country proud. He won New Zealand Player of the Year in 1974, 1979, and 1980. He was also inducted into the NZSMA Hall of Fame in 1995.
One of the things that’s most notable about this player’s career is his influence on the FIFA World Cup for New Zealand Football. Turner played a very successful campaign, which helped the All-Whites make it to the 1982 FIFA World Cup. He was also the team’s assistant coach when they played the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Chris Zoricich is one of the All-Whites’ most underrated players. He played for the league for over a decade throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Fans were quick to notice his exceptional defender skills. He also made a name for himself through his strong leadership and his determination.
Zoricich was a notable player in helping the All-Whites qualify for the 1999 Confederations Cup and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
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