Paraguay 0-0 New Zealand

Paraguay finally ended New Zealand's dream as the South Americans moved into the knockout phase as unbeaten winners of Group F

Paraguay 0-0 New Zealand

Ricki Herbert's rank-outsiders exit the tournament with their heads held high - finishing unbeaten and a place above deposed World Champions Italy, who improbably came bottom of the pile.

The Kiwis came up short just when it mattered most in a tense affair in Polokwane where clear chances were few and far between.

But it could have been a different matter had veteran midfielder Simon Elliott not wasted a golden chance when he fired wide from a Tony Lochhead cross shortly after the interval.

Against superior opposition, the All Whites were limited in the amount of presentable openings they were able to create, and the well organised South Americans were equal to the task when asked to weather the inevitable late storm as Herbert's side looked to keep their dream alive.

Despite employing a three-pronged attack with the return of £18m Manchester City striker Roque Santa Cruz, Paraguay were happy to sit back for long periods, safe in the knowledge that a draw would see them through top of the group and avoid a likely meeting in the last 16 with Holland.

New Zealand's solid defence largely confined them to long-range efforts, and on the rare occasions they managed to find a way through, Mark Paston was again in outstanding form.

The Kiwis' man-of-the-match keeper reserved his most outstanding work to deny lively substitute Edgar Benitez, whose appearance after the break breathed fresh life into his side.

Paston also thwarted Santa Cruz to round off an impressive personal tournament for the former Bradford City keeper, whose heroics were ably matched by many of his team-mates.

Draws against the Italians and Slovakia will linger long in the memory for the Kiwis, who nevertheless head home reflecting on what might have been in a group which continually threw up surprises right until the last minute.

Paraguay (4-3-3): Villar; Caniza, JC Caceres, Da Silva, Morel; Vera, V Caceres, Riveros; Santa Cruz, Valdez (Benitez 66), Cardozo (Barrios 66). Subs (not used): D Barreto, Veron, Bonet, E Barreto, Santana, Torres, Ortigoza, Alcaraz, Gamarra, Bobadilla.

New Zealand (3-4-3): Paston; Reid, Nelsen, Smith; Vicelich, Lochhead, Bertos, Elliott; Killen (Brockie 80), Fallon (Wood 69), Smeltz. Subs (not used): Moss, Christie, Sigmund, Brown, Barron, McGlinchey, Clapham, Mulligan, Boyens, Wood, Brockie, Bannatyne.


 

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