This morning, the match between New Zealand and Slovakia continued the theme of this world cup: defensive sides. Luckily, as has been the case, there has been a general liberalization of the style that saw Paraguay and France drop off and put nine men behind the ball for ninety minutes.
In the fiftieth minute, Slovakia came forward in a questionable offsides position, and Robert Vittek sealed his Man of the Match status with a driven header past Kiwi goalie, Mark Paston. However – as has arguably been the most exciting goal of the tournament and in turn, crushing all Slovakian confidence of what they thought was three points – in the third minute of stoppage, Winston Reid finished a ball in the same fashion as Robert Vittek and secured New Zealand’s first World Cup point – ever.
With regard to how this game fits in to previous matches in this year’s tournament – it does and it doesn’t. The beginning of this article mentions the defensive nature of teams in the tournament. What’s the reason for this? Well, it’s simple: if you go up one-nil in the first twenty minutes and then sit back and defend and clear EVERY ball out for the next seventy minutes, then you walk away from the park with 3 points and, for most, go top table for your group. This doesn’t make for wildly entertaining football, but it does secure a much needed three points.
With respect to the game this morning – at times it seemed to have fit the mold of the past four days, however – at the end – a last ditch effort and the motivation to steal one point back gave a much needed boost and excitement to a tournament which is yet to see a true upset that makes the opening group stages so exciting.
In all honesty, this fixture has been the most exciting for me – short of the US-Engalnd match, because of my allegiances – simply for Reid’s fantastic finish that truly was, a historic goal. Let’s hope that more matches in the group stage continue to impress and create some fantastic and entertaining football to enjoy.
Be sure to check in later today for Jon’s analysis of Portgual v. Ivory Coast and Julian’s wrap up for Brazil and North Korea!
The final word from this match comes from New Zealand’s cultural attache – to any viewers who may take offense to “foul” language: you’re on the wrong site.