Even the final result, 4-2 (9-3 on aggregate) to Mexico, at a near-capacity Westpac Stadium, couldn't put a damper on the day.
Both All Whites and Mexico fans made the most of the beautiful sunshine in the lead up to second-leg of the intercontinental playoff. Visitors enjoyed a spot of paddle-boarding and sightseeing on the Wellington waterfront, meandering around Te Papa Tongarewa - Museum of New Zealand, and filling bars and restaurants.
According to Mexican Ambassador Leonora Rueda, the game looked like it had succeeded in bringing together one of the biggest gatherings of Mexicans New Zealand has even seen.
There was rumours that more international media were in New Zealand for the World Cup qualifying tie than in attendance for the 2011 Rugby World Cup final - such is the global pull of the ‘beautiful game’.
Around the waterfront, and along the fan trail leading to the stadium, Mexicans proudly showed off their national footballing colours. Mexican flags were flying and the sounds of mariachi bands filled the air.
The Wellington waterfront looked even more spectacular as two luxury cruise ships, with an estimated 6000 passengers on board, docked for the day in the capital city.
Around 35,000 football fans at Westpac Stadium kept the party-mood alive throughout. It was a wonderful carnival atmosphere inside the ‘cake tin’ so-called for its circular shape that affords visitors a stunning view of the surrounding Wellington hills, over the stadium rim.
Mexico fans celebrated loud and proud as each of their teams’ four goals hit the back of the net - three of those coming from stand-out Mexican player Oribe Peralta.
It was also a day of reflection for New Zealand Football as the game signalled the end of the line for long-term New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert but - with the FIFA U-20 World Cup coming to the country in 2015 - it was also a time to look to the future.
Earlier in the day, Dave Beeche, CEO of the FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015, unveiled the match schedule. Seven cities from the North Island and South Island of New Zealand have been chosen to host games, giving visitors a chance to experience a range of adventures and landscapes across New Zealand.
Rising football stars
The announcement now gives football fans around the world, keen to catch some of the biggest rising stars in world football, a chance to start planning their trip to watch the ‘beautiful game’ in one of the world’s most beautiful countries.
Halftime at the playoff also saw the release of the the Official Emblem of the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
The design of the FIFA-developed logo demonstrates New Zealand’s unique culture and natural beauty as well as its standing as the first country in the world to see the rising sun.
Other elements of the design, based on the shape of the FIFA U-20 World Cup trophy, include the iconic unfurling ‘pico’ or young fern, representing the youthful nature of those participating in the tournament and the potential greatness of the players who will be aiming to amaze fans with their skill and talent.
Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, New Plymouth and Wellington on the North Island will host games, while Christchurch and Dunedin will represent the sport-loving South Island.
The schedule sees four pool games played in two of the seven host cities daily - with plenty of double-header football action to whet the sporting appetite. A ‘Super-Sunday’ comprised of four quarter-final games will take place on the same day, is also sure to be a key feature of the tournament.