New Zealand vs Slovakia – All Whites snatch last minute equaliser
New Zealand defender Winston Reid snatched a last-gasp equaliser to secure his team’s first ever point at the World Cup finals.
The All White’s looked to be heading for a narrow defeat when a Robert Vittek strike still separated the sides with 30 seconds left of the clock.
But Reid, who had earlier blocked a goal-bound Vittek shot when the score was 1-0, rose highest to nod in a Shane Smeltz cross and make history for the Southern-Hemisphere side. Smeltz is 50/1 to be the Rest of the World top scorer.
New Zealand had never conceded less than three goals in a World Cup match before but their defensive display here sends a message to their other Group F opponents Italy and Paraguay.
They demonstrated good discipline to press at selective moments, while looking a threat from set pieces delivered by Simon Elliott, and will go into Sunday’s match with the reigning champions hoping to replicate the unified display.
Slovakia will head into their match with Paraguay ruing what might have been, with a win putting them in decent shape to cause a stir in the battle for qualification.
When Vittek buried a header from a great Stanislav Sestak cross it seemed assured the Europeans would win their first ever game as an independent nation at the World Cup.
It was Vittek’s 21st goal in his 71st match and moved him to just one behind all-time highest scorer Szilard Nemeth.
Interestingly, the goals were the fourth and fifth headers scored at the World Cup from just eight such efforts on target.
Marek Hamsik, Vladimir Weiss and Sestak put in competent displays but none really showed the drive to force home their second-half advantage.
Their team’s hopes of getting above either Paraguay or Italy look near-fatally damaged.
How will the shock result affect Group F betting? New Zealand have dispelled notions of whipping-boy status and could prove a difficult nut for a labouring Italy to crack.