Tuesday, 15 June 2010


New Zealand picked up their first ever point at the World Cup Finals with a last gasp equaliser against an unimpressive Slovakia side.

The Slovakians, competing in their first World Cup as an independent nation, had been expected to cruise past the All Whites with their wealth of European stars. However Ricki Herbert's men were well organised and gave a strong account of themselves to pick up a deserved draw.

New Zealand were unlucky not to be ahead at half time, threatening the Slovakian defence with a number of good crosses. Shortly after the break Slovakia punished New Zealand with their first clear cut opportunity as Robert Vittek directed a header into the far corner of the goal.

Slovakia looked capable of playing some neat football when not falling on the floor in 'agony' but they were still struggling to create chances and when they did they failed to test the 'keeper. Napoli's highly rated midfielder Marek Hamsik wastefully fired over after good work from striker Stanislav Sestak in the build up.

Slovakia attempted to see out the match with their one goal advantage in tact but a barrage of long and early crosses from New Zealand kept the pressure on deep into injury time.

The Islanders appeared to waste their last chance for an equaliser when Tony Lochead's superb cross was headed wide by Shane Smeltz just before the ninety minutes was up. However the Kiwi's kept pushing and it was Smeltz himself who delivered a glorious curling cross to the far post for defender Winston Reid to divert in off the post with a glancing header.

Cue scenes of jubilation as every member of the squad rose from the bench to celebrate with the now shirtless Reid in front of the joyous New Zealand support. Slovakia's inability to win against New Zealand could compound them to exit as they will now surely have to win against either defending champions Italy or the highly rated Paraguay to stand and chance of qualifying for the knock out stages.

On the other hand, for New Zealand, a country without a professional football league, the party will continue against Italy on Sunday.

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