ALL Whites defender Tommy Smith has hailed the 2010 World Cup as a great experience but admits he's disappointed not to have seen New Zealand progress beyond the group stage.
The Kiwis went into the tournament rank outsiders to qualify for the knockout stage, but impressed in their opening two matches only to narrowly miss out on the Round of 16 after drawing with Paraguay in their final group game.
Smith, 20, who plays for Roy Keane's Ipswich Town in England's Championship, told his club's website he revelled in his experiences in South Africa.
"Playing in the World Cup has been a great experience," he said. "I've got mixed emotions about it because I'm disappointed that we didn't take that extra step and get into the next round.
"I'm proud to have represented New Zealand on the world stage though and to have remained unbeaten in the competition."
Smith, who was born in England but resided in New Zealand during his younger years, added the All Whites achievements should provide a boost for the code in the rugby-mad nation.
"I think what we achieved will be massive boost for the sport in New Zealand," he said.
"Football has forever been a long way behind rugby in the popularity stakes but with us doing reasonably well, the whole country has stood up and taken notice of the sport.
"More and more kids are taking up football and that can only be good for the development of the game in New Zealand."
Smith continued he hoped to build on his fledgling career following the World Cup.
"For me personally, I think playing in the World Cup has improved me as a player and I hope that will help me to establish myself in the Ipswich side," he said.
"I have already had a few messages from some of the Ipswich lads saying well done but I'm sure I will get some stick from them when I get back as well.
"I have to be back in on the 16th July so I get a bit of a break but with the lads back on Monday, I will have a bit of catching up to do.
"I will need the break though to avoid being burnt out."