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Undefeated All Whites exit with pride

POLOKWANE, SOUTH AFRICA – A goalless draw against Paraguay was not enough to send an unbeaten New Zealand through to the FIFA World Cup Round of 16 in Polokwane on Friday morning (NZT).

Mark Paston. Photosport

June 24, 2010

POLOKWANE, SOUTH AFRICA – A goalless draw against Paraguay was not enough to send an unbeaten New Zealand through to the FIFA World Cup Round of 16 in Polokwane on Friday morning (NZT).

Following on from 1-1 draws with Slovakia and Italy, the 0-0 stalemate left the All Whites, playing in their alternate black strip, in select company as one of only five sides - England (1958), Scotland (1974), Cameroon (1982) and Belgium (1998)are the others – to exit a World Cup unbeaten.

After the match, coach Ricki Herbert was in reflective mood.

“To go home unbeaten - I would never have dreamed of that going into the tournament,” Herbert said.

“It might have only taken on chance tonight and if we were good enough we would’ve grabbed it, but nothing’s going to change how I feel and think about this team right now.”

The point was enough for Paraguay to finish top of the group while Slovakia moved up to second with a 3-2 win over Italy, who finished bottom of the group. Paraguay will play Japan, and Slovaia meet the Netherlands in the round of 16.

“If you’re going to exit the World Cup there’s probably good ways of going out and not so good ways. But you can read the list tomorrow and teams like France and Italy will be sitting behind us. I think we’re a good shot to finish in the top 24.”

The players echoed Herbert’s pride in their undefeated record but it was scant consolation for a team whose belief had not wavered  throughout the campaign.

 “I think we kept resetting our own expectations and the fans’ expectations and it’s a shame that we couldn’t quite get across the line [and qualify],” said midfielder Simon Elliott.

“While we are proud of the unbeaten record there’s mixed emotions for sure.” Simon Elliott

New Zealand reproduced the form they showed against the World Champions but found chances hard to come by against the well organised South Americans.

Substitute Chris Wood almost got on the end of a 87th minute Shane Smeltz cross but would have been offside had he netted the goal New Zealand needed to go through, while Elliott blasted a shot just wide in the 48th minute after Tony Lochhead got in behind the Paraguayan defence.

Goalkeeper Mark Paston was again in fine form, with a double save denying  Edgar Benitez and Lucas Barrios in the 76th minute then parrying Roque Santa Cruz’s dipping free kick four minutes later.

FIFA World Cup: Group F
New Zealand 0 Paraguay 0

Peter Mokaba Stadium
Polokwane

New Zealand: 1-Mark PASTON (GK), 3-Tony LOCHHEAD, 4-Winston REID, 5-Ivan VICELEICH, 6-Ryan NELSEN (captain), 7 Simon ELLIOTT, 9-Shane SMELTZ, 10-Chris KILLEN (22-Jeremy BROCKIE 79), 11-Leo BERTOS, 14-Rory FALLON (20-Chris WOOD 68), 21, 19-Tommy SMITH.
Substitutes not used: 2-Ben SIGMUND, 8-Tim BROWN, 12-Glen MOSS (RGK), 13-Andy BARRON, 15-Michael MCGLINCHEY, 16-Aaron CLAPHAM, 17-David MULLIGAN, 18-Andrew BOYENS, -Jeremy CHRISTIE, 23-James BANNATYNE (RGK).
Coach: Ricki HERBERT

Cautions: Ryan NELSEN

Paraguay: 1-Justo VILLAR (GK), 3-Claudio MOREL, 4-Denis CANIZA, 5-Julio Cesar CACERES, 7-Oscar CARDOZO (19-Lucas BARRIOS 66), 9-Roque SANTA CRUZ, 13-Enrique VERA, 14-Paulo DA SILVA, 15-Victor CACERES, 16-Cristian RIVEROS, 18-Nelson VALDEZ (10-Edgar BENITEZ 66).
Substitutes not used: 2-Dario VERON, 6-Carlos BONET, 8-Edgar BARRETO, 11-Jonathan SANTANA, 12-Diego BARRETO (RGK), 17-Aureliano TORRES, 20-Nestor ORTIGOZA, 21-Antolin ALCARAZ, 22-Aldo BOBADILLA (RGK), 23-Rodolfo GAMARRA.
Coach: Gerardo MARTINO
Cautions: Victor CACERE

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