It’s something that every soccer player around the world dreams of one day, but only a tiny percentage ever get to actually experience. Red Bull Andrew Boyens is now officially a member of that small fraternity. The defender was recently named to the New Zealand squad for the upcoming 2010 FIFA World Cup, and will represent his country on the grandest soccer stage of them all when the tournament begins play in early June in South Africa. A veteran of the New Zealand national squad, Boyens has been caped 12 times by the All-Whites. However, adding to that number in the upcoming World Cup would mark the best achievement for Boyens.
“It’s always nice to see your name up there,” Boyens said upon hearing the news that he had made the final 23-man squad. “I was fairly confident that I’d be involved in the 23 man squad, but to see my name up there with the rest of the boys, it was a nice feeling.”
Boyens has made the 18-man squad for every Red Bulls’ regular season match this season, and played the full 90 in the Red Bulls’ 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union in U.S. Open Cup play. In his third season with the New York, Boyens knows his responsibility as a professional with his club. However, the allure of joining his countrymen in June was always on his mind.
“I think as it’s been approaching more and more, it’s kind of taken up a bigger spot in the back of my head,” Boyens said. “Obviously, I’m concentrating on the MLS season at the moment, but once I get on that plane on Monday, it’s straight into World Cup thinking.”
New Zealand and Boyens gained invaluable experience in the summer of 2009, competing in the FIFA Confederations Cup. Not only did Boyens and his teammates get to experience playing in the host country South Africa, New Zealand faced tough competition, as they matched up against powerhouses Spain and Italy. Boyens, who started both matches, is aware of the importance of gaining experience before heading onto such a big stage.
“I think, definitely, we got a feel for the atmosphere over there and what it’s going to be like,” Boyens said. “Obviously it was a smaller scale, but we played Italy, Spain, and Iraq. To play against three top teams like that is great preparation.”
Along with getting another crack at defending World Cup champions Italy, New Zealand has also been grouped with Slovakia and Paraguay in Group F. It’s a group that Boyens believes the underdog All-Whites can advance past.
“I think our group is strong, but there are a couple of teams that are beatable,” Boyens said, likely referencing Slovakia and Paraguay. “I think we have to approach each game worrying about ourselves more than our opponents, and hopefully we can do the job.”
Boyens will depart the Red Bulls on Monday the 17th, and will head to Auckland, New Zealand to meet up with his countrymen. The team will then embark on a two week camp in Austria, where they will play exhibition matches against Serbia and Slovenia. After that, it’s off to South Africa and an exhibition with Chile before the tournament gets under way. The All-Whites open their World Cup with a match against Slovakia on June 15th, before facing Italy on the 20th. They round out the Group Stage against Paraguay on June 24th.
“It’s exciting times,” Boyens said of the buildup to the biggest moment of his professional career. “It’s the biggest tournament, not just football tournament, in the world. I’m super pumped for it.”
Christopher Celletti is a reporter for NewYorkRedBulls.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.