All Whites defender Liberato Cacace knows first-hand how inspirational a win for New Zealand in their World Cup play-off against Costa Rica would be to a new generation of talent back home.

Cacace was nine when the All Whites beat Bahrain in a play-off in Wellington to qualify for the 2010 World Cup - just the second time in history New Zealand have been to a finals.

Both he and current All Whites teammate Matthew Garbett were in the stands for that historic win, as football fever gripped the rugby-mad nation.

While New Zealand has fallen in the play-off stage of their past two campaigns, they head into Tuesday's (Wednesday 0400 AEST) clash against Costa Rica in Qatar full of belief.

Cacace, 21, made history earlier this year when he became the first New Zealander to play in Italy's top flight after a move to Empoli.

Garbett, 20, wasn't far behind him, however, after moving to Torino while others such as Joe Bell and Elijah Just are also impressing in Europe.

Cacace says that night in Wellington in November 2009 was definitely a key moment in showing New Zealand youngsters what could be achieved.

"We've spoken about it amongst each other," Cacace told the Australian Associated Press.

"We kind of use that as motivation to create that kind of same history.

"We saw what it meant to New Zealand.

"We're trying to bring back the craziness or the passion for football back to New Zealand because of how everyone loves the rugby and we're trying to create some some good hype around football in New Zealand."

A World Cup berth would cap a massive few months for Cacace, a Wellington Phoenix academy product who debuted for the A-League Men's club in February 2018.

After more than 50 appearances for his hometown club, Cacace moved to Belgium to join Kevin Muscat at Sint-Truiden on a three-year deal.

Then in January came the move to Italy and a chance to take on some of the biggest teams in Europe including Juventus, AC Milan and the club he supported as a boy - Napoli.

"Sometimes, I forget that I play in the Italian top-flight or I've played against some of the biggest teams in the world," he said.

"I look back at when I was young - I used to play video games against these teams. To think that I played against them, it's pretty surreal.

"I always smile to myself when I think about it and I kind of use that as motivation to top all that. To even score or even play against the other bigger teams in the world."

With 2010 World Cup veterans Winston Reid and Chris Wood also on board to help guide their young teammates, Cacace is bullish about New Zealand's chances in their winner-takes-all play-off.

"Football is a crazy game and anything can happen," he said.

"They're going to be very physical, they're going to be very quick on the counter.

"As long as we give our best and make New Zealand proud, then that's all we can ask for really."



More news can be found using thisΒ link.