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Smash and grab as Kiwis claim first ever point at a World Cup

June 15, 2010

Proud: Herbert hailed historic point -

New Zealand 1-1 Slovakia

Reid, 90+3             Vittek, 50

(HT 0-0)

Venue: Royal Bafokeng Stadium

Att: 33,820

A LAST gasp header from New Zealand defender Winston Reid secured the All Whites their first ever point in a World Cup. The Kiwis were good value for the point and looked organised throughout in this Group F encounter at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium. Experienced skipper Ryan Nelson orchestrated proceedings from the back as tournament debutants Slovakia found it difficult to muster a clear-cut chance in the opening stages of the game. 

Slovakia, who topped their group in qualifying, were a disappointment for much of the game as they struggled to breach a sturdy New Zealand rearguard. The managers son, Vladimir Weiss Jnr proved to be the Slovaks talisman in midfield. Weiss spent a season-long loan at the Reebok Stadium and showed just why Bolton Wanderers boss Owen Coyle rates him so highly as he turned the screw on New Zealand’s back-line.

The Slovakians were without their all-time top-scorer Szilard Nemeth who recently retired from international football. A familiar name to many people on Teesside, Nemeth notched 22 goals in 59 caps for his country but after Robert Vittek netted with a powerful header on 50 minutes it looks like his record will be surpassed by the Lille front-man. Vittek scored his 21st international goal escaping his marker to divert a header past keeper Mark Paston.

New Zealand lacked creativity up front, Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel restricting the underdogs to long-range efforts. Coach Ricki Herbert’s decision to introduce Chris Wood to the fray proved to be a decisive choice as his cross in the last-minute of added on time was met by the head of Winston Reid to give the minnows an unlikely point. The slumped figure of Vladimir Snr on the bench said it all – Slovakia missing a golden opportunity to top a group that includes four-time winners Italy and Paraguay.  

Opposing coach Ricki Herbert played in New Zealand’s last World Cup campaign in 1982.

He said: “We came across [to South Africa] with the intention to make a difference and we certainly did that against a highly rated team,”

“We are very, very proud. You would have to say this is our best-ever result.

“We have never picked up a point in a World Cup before. We have come and thrown some extremely good punches and got what I thought was a fully deserved result.”

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