Recaps and game analysis to follow one or two hours after each match.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Game 12: New Zealand vs Slovakia

Alexi Lalas, a match analysis for ESPN, said ahead of this game that New Zealand need to prove that they deserve to be at this World Cup. Allow me to disagree with him for a moment. The Oceania qualification group has rather slim pickings, and since Australia moved to the Asian confederacy, the door has been pretty much left open for the Kiwis, who after winning the vast majority of the games faced a playoff against Bahrain. Well Alexi, who would you prefer? New Zealand or Bahrain, neither are terribly impressive teams. To imply that New Zealand does not deserve to be at this tournament is a little condescending, especially after the game they had today.

New Zealand claimed they would not just play defensively, that they would come out and attack, and attack they did, amassing the same number of shots on goal as their opponents Slovakia, at two each, going practically fifty-fifty on possession, and constantly pushing. The Kiwis also put out a really good defense, that halted a lot of Slovakia's goal-scorers, albeit not completely when Robert Vittik would score a header from a routine cross in the 50th minute. After replays, it was shown that Vittik and another Slovakian player were offsides, but that is the nature of football.

After this goal Slovakia would calm down a bit, starting to connect their passing more in an effort to maintain possession while waiting for an opening. However, New Zealand would not provide one, and would keep battling hard down to the final minute, when in the last thirty seconds of stoppage time the defender Winston Reid would head the ball off of a brilliant Smeltz cross, catching all the defenders off guard.  Poor Slovakia, playing in their first ever World Cup as their own nation, just narrowly missed out on a win, but New Zealand would not give up and deserved this draw.

How about now Alexi? Good enough for you?

Final Score: New Zealand 1 - 1 Slovakia

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