We’re happy to prove the doubters wrong

THE games just keep getting bigger and bigger for Tommy Smith.

The Ipswich Town 20-year-old has to keep pinching himself as a reminder that he is playing on the biggest stage, and today is a red-letter day for both himself and his New Zealand team.

If the All-Whites can beat the Paraguay, then they will definitely qualify for the second round. That would be a marvellous achievement for a team widely regarded as the rank outsiders of the whole tournament before a ball had been kicked.

Smith is again set to play on the left-side of a three-man central defence, a position he has filled to good effect in the previous two matches.

The Town man is certainly not over-awed by the prospect of playing Paraguay, or fazed by the possibility of reaching the knock-out stages of the World Cup.

Smith said: “We know that a win will guarantee qualification and even a draw could be enough, so there is definitely confidence throughout the squad that we can do it.

“We have always been confident in our own ability. It just seemed that everyone was writing us off before a ball had been kicked and that has made us want to succeed even more.

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“We are all happy to be proving a lot of people wrong,” added Smith.

The bottom line is that if New Zealand beat Paraguay, then Ricki Herbert’s men will definitely advance to the second round, regardless of the result in the other Group F match between Slovakia and Italy.

If the Kiwis draw, they will only qualify if Italy draw against Slovakia and finish with more goals than the Italians.

And if the All Whites and Slovakia both win, then New Zealand will top the group.

Smith impressed against Italy on Sunday, even though he gave away the penalty for pulling down Daniele de Rossi, which led to the Italians’ equaliser.

“Obviously it was a great result for us, drawing against the World Champions,” continued Smith.

“Just playing against them was a good experience but to get a point out of it was unthinkable to most people.”

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