Marinovic Reyna split screen

Marinovic, Reyna set for battle in World Cup playoff: 'There's been a little bit of banter'

Stefan Marinovic doesn’t speak Spanish. And Yordy Reyna’s English is quite limited.

But where there’s a will to trash talk, there’s a way.

Both players speak German thanks to their previous playing experiences in Germany, and in the case of Reyna, Austria. And the Vancouver Whitecaps FC teammates have been enjoying some friendly banter over the last few weeks with their respective national teams set to do battle in a two-leg, inter-confederation playoff for a berth in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

“Yordy and I get along well,” Marinovic said. “We’ve chatted. There’s a little bit of banter in the club room … just a little bit of fun. At the end of the day, we’re teammates at this club. You don’t want there to be any bad blood before or after no matter what happens. We’ll just go to our respective national teams, both give our best, and see who comes out on top.”

New Zealand hosts Peru in the first leg of the playoff this Saturday in Wellington, before the second leg goes Wednesday in Lima – a city in which Reyna broke into the professional ranks.

“It means the world for us to play at home because we don’t get to do that very often,” Marinovic said of Saturday’s first leg. “It comes around maybe once every four years that we have a big team at home and Peru are a big team. That means a lot to the guys. We’re going to have a sold-out stadium so we want to put on a great show.”

Marinovic broke into the New Zealand national team in March of 2015 and has since become the Kiwis’ undisputed starter. The 26-year-old turned heads at this year’s FIFA Confederations Cup in matches against Portugal, Mexico, and Russia, which had teams in Europe chasing him, and has played every single one of New Zealand’s 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers to this point.

In his most recent outing back in September, Marinovic made three highlight-reel saves against the Solomon Islands to help the Kiwis clinch their berth in the playoff vs. Peru. The last time Peru qualified for the World Cup was 1982, but they’re still the clear favourites to advance.

Marinovic said he expects Peru to carry play, but that doesn’t mean the Kiwis can’t get a result.

“With the Whitecaps, we tend to have a little bit less than 50 per cent of possession, which is fine,” Marinovic said. “We like that. And I think that will be quite similar to what I will face back home against Peru. I think we’ll be up against the wall but we want to get a result and as the Whitecaps have shown we can get a result like that.”

Marinovic started eight matches for Vancouver this season, including three appearances in the MLS Cup Playoffs, and posted three clean sheets.

He also had a first-hand view of the impact Reyna made down the stretch.

The 24-year-old attacking midfielder recorded six goals and four assists in just 11 starts, which helped him earn his first call-up to the Peruvian national team since 2015. Reyna appeared as a sub in Peru’s final World Cup qualifier – a 1-1 draw with Colombia.

It’s expected Reyna will be deployed as a sub once again vs. New Zealand. Either way, you can expect he and Marinovic to have something to say in which team advances.

And it will be probably be in German.