A late, late goal from Winston Reid gave New Zealand their first ever World Cup point last night in Rustenberg despite an incredibly uninspiring performance from the tournament minnows. I haven’t got the time to write a full match reaction – exams, exams, exfrickenams – but seeing as I live in New Zealand it feels as though I should make an effort and write something, so here’s a quick fire five conclusions from the game.
1. Shake it up Ricki!
New Zealand’s only real attacking option throughout the entire game – hell, throughout the entire build up to the World Cup – was a big ol’ diagonal ball into Fallon or Killen. I absolutely respect playing to your strengths, and the All Whites are doing it literally there, but it becomes a tad predictable (nevermind tiresome on the eyes) when you persist at it for ninety minutes. Now I know Winston Reid’s goal resulted from a similar initiative, but every now and then change it up a bit – Smeltz showed that he works best with the ball into feet, a bit of variation never hurt anyone.
2. Play some creative midfielders.
The problem I outlined above was also due in part to the central midfield partnership that New Zealand played which consisted of Simon Elliot and Ivan Vicelich (I bet there won’t be an older CM partnership fielded in the tournament). While experience can be invaluable, the ability to run with the ball and a bit of composure and vision on the ball is essential too. While Elliot’s long-range distribution (see above) is good, neither he nor Vicelich can really thread any real killer balls through, nor do they look for it in to feet from the defenders. As such, the midfield was bypassed far too often – get McGlinchey or someone in there who can use the ball more effectively and things will open up more easily.
3. Winston Reid, the new Ryan Nelsen?
I am slightly afraid here, of encouraging the inevitable idolatry of Winston Reid in this country that is bound to escalate wildly after last night’s goal. However, I had thought before last night’s match that Reid had a bit about him and I think he may well have the potential to develop into a high quality player. He still makes some mistakes – the Slovakia goal was his fault for example – but he’s a good, strong, no-nonsense defender and very naturally athletic. If he can continue to develop he may well turn some heads in this tournament – I have an upcoming guest article where I suggest five future EPL players from the World Cup, Reid is one of them.
4. Slovakia can feel hard done by, but it was their own fault.
Make no bones about it, Slovakia deserved to win that match. New Zealand took the game to a very nervous looking team for the first 15 minutes, but then the real Slovakians turned up and you have to say that Vladimir Weiss and Marek Hamsik bossed the game completely. They put together some good football at times, looked a threat going forwards and really should be top of Group F with three points. What happened, quite simply, is that they were lulled into a false sense of security – New Zealand were so harmless for most of the game that when they got their goal, they thought they had it in their bag. Complacency is a dangerous game indeed though.
5. Neither team will qualify for the next round.
Many New Zealand fans are getting quite excited today – “we’ve got more points than Australia!”. Fair enough, so you do, but Australia played Germany. I will be very surprised indeed if Italy and Paraguay don’t each take two victories from their final two games and progress through to the next round. New Zealand’s point may well remain their only point – they simply don’t have the quality to put better teams than Slovakia to the sword. Still, that is nothing to be disappointed about. As Herbert has said, they’ll give them both a game, and they’ve earned the respect of the world already. Now they need to make sure they repeat the trick in Brazil in four years time.
Thoughts on the game? Leave a comment below…