(Reuters) – New Zealand Prime Minister John Key wants the All Whites to receive a champions’ parade for their battling performance at the World Cup, where they were knocked out in the group stage without losing a match.
New Zealand drew all three of their contests in South Africa in their second appearance at the finals after being thrashed in all their group games at the 1982 tournament in Spain.
“It would be nice to see their result celebrated,” Key told local media on Friday. “They’ll come back as champions.”
New Zealand, 78th in the FIFA world rankings, will return home after upsetting the odds by holding Slovakia, Paraguay and World Cup holders Italy in Group F.
“They are a team that are going to come back to New Zealand as heroes,” Key said. “It was always going to be a Herculean task to get through.
“In the end they didn’t quite make it on points but a result nevertheless that we can all be proud of.”
However, an official celebration for the New Zealand side could be at least a week and up to a month away with players and coaching staff arriving back at different times.
Wellington would be the likely venue for the parade after talks with New Zealand Football, according to the country’s NZPA news service.
(Reporting by Alastair Himmer in Tokyo; Editing by John O’Brien)