New Zealand international Tommy Smith remains focused on events at Portman Road despite World Cup dream

Ipswich Town v Millwall
earlier in the season

Ipswich Town v Millwall earlier in the season - Credit: Archant

The Azteca Stadium can wait, first up it’s Bolton and Blackpool.

Tommy Smith insists the prospect of playing at a World Cup in Brazil won’t lead to him taking his eye off the ball for Ipswich Town over the coming weeks.

The 23-year-old centre-back will be part of a New Zealand team that faces Mexico in a two-legged play-off next month, the winners booking a place at Rio 2014.

The first leg will be played on November 13th or 14th at the iconic 100,000-seater Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, with the second leg at the Wellington Regional Stadium on November 20.

Smith – who will be up against Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez in those fixtures – was part of a New Zealand side that qualified for their first World Cup in 28 years last time around, the All Whites unfortunate not to progress past the group stages in South Africa after drawing with Slovakia, Italy and Paraguay.

And having topped the Oceania qualifying group this time, they will be seen as favourites to progress after Mexico just about scraped fourth spot in CONCACAF qualifying.

First up though, Smith has away days at Bolton and Blackpool – sandwiched either side of a home game against Barnsley – to worry about.

Most Read

“It will be a brilliant experience playing at the Azteca, it holds 104,000 people, but I’ve got three more games to focus on for Ipswich Town first,” said the Macclesfield-born, Blues academy product.

“If I could get there again that would be great. I played at the last one and I’ve still got an unbeaten World Cup record!

“It would be amazing to play against the world’s best players in Brazil, but anything can happen over two legs of football.”

Smith continues to rack up the air miles playing for the nation he grew up in as a child.

During the most recent international break it was a trip to America and the Caribbean.

He explains: “We had five or six days at a place called Ventura – it’s in between LA and Santa Barbara – just for a little training camp. We played a couple of games against club sides out there.

“We flew to Trinidad & Tobago and drew 0-0 with them, then I had to fly back via Miami. I got back on the Thursday morning, too late for training so I just had a massage and got myself right for training on Friday and Saturday’s game.

“I got a little knock to my knee out there, I could have played on with it, but it was safety first and I came off in one of the games as a precaution.

“I don’t know how many air miles I’ve got now but it must be a fair few. I’ve just got used to it.”

Meanwhile, following Saturday’s narrow 1-0 home defeat to table-toppers Burnley, Smith believes that Town fans should still be optimistic about the season ahead.

He said: “If you look at most of games we haven’t picked up points in it’s only been the odd goal that’s made the difference in matches that could have gone either way.

“It’s fine margins in the Championship and we could easily be the ones up where Burnley are.

“I’m sure we’ll get our rewards if we keep playing as we have been.”