New Zealand 1-1 Slovakia: Last Minute Goal Saves Kiwis
What an exiting game this turned out to be. The only time New Zealand had qualified for the World Cup finals before South Africa 2010 was in 1982, and as expected they lost their three group matches. The All Whites would likely not have qualified for the world’s most prestigious event this time around had Australia not switched from the Oceania Football Confederation to the Asian Football Confederation. But today they really proved themselves, when Winston Reid scored in the 93rd minute, and such an exciting turn of events this was.
The Kiwis had looked impressive in a couple of friendly games in the build-up to the South Africa finale. They narrowly lost to defending world champions Italy 4-3 in a friendly last summer and defeated fellow World Cup finalists Serbia 1-0. However, their last friendly before the World Cup ended in a comprehensive loss to Slovenia, and not a single fan expected today to end up with a drae the way it did.
Slovakia on the other hand gained independence in the 1990s and this is the first time that they have qualified for the World Cup. In fact, this is the first time that the Europeans have accomplished qualification for any international competition. Indeed, it was a major achievement for Vladimir Weiss’ side that they topped their group in the European qualifiers given that it also had Poland and the Czech Republic among its ranks. Pitted against Italy, Paraguay and of course New Zealand in Group F, the Slovaks will be hopeful for a place in the last 16. The Europeans have a young and dynamic side and have world class players both in defense and in midfield.
Liverpool centre-back Martin Skrtel is well known among Premier League followers and his partnership with Jan Durica of Lokomotiv Moscow saw Slovakia concede just 10 goals in the qualifiers. Marek Hamsik in attacking midfield is a world class talent and is being hunted by some of Europe’s biggest clubs. However, Slovakia’s run-up to the World Cup has been mixed. In the last five friendlies, they defeated the USA and Costa Rica, but lost to Chile and Norway and drew with Cameroon. Nevertheless, they were very hopeful of making their debut in football’s most prestigious competition and winning against New Zealand today, but it was the Kiwi’s who shone instead.