Australia would appear to be muscling in on the All Whites’ historic draw against Slovakia at the football World Cup this morning.
The All Whites result, a couple of days after the “Shockeroos” lost 4-0 to Germany, was trumpeted as “Australasia 1, Slovakia 1: Kiwis get the point” in a Sydney Morning Herald column today. :mad::mad::mad::mad:
John Huxley described the occasion as a "dire match, played in a half-empty bitter-cold Platinum City.’’
Huxley conceded that Socceroo supporters needed no reminding that, temporarily at least, their team are struggling and quoted one Aussie fan at the World Cup disgruntled at the prospect of being upstaged by the Kiwis at the greatest game on turf.
‘‘As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, we’re going to have the bloody Kiwis climbing into our faces,’’ Luke Williamson said. He admitted, the two groups of supporters would probably be joined in some temporary alliance to take on the world.
Another SMH columnist, Michael Cockerill, couldn’t help but draw comparisons with the Socceroos.
"The Socceroos rolled up their tent against the Germans, but the All Whites refused to lay down against the Slovaks. A huge gulf in quality in terms of the opposition, granted. But there is a moral to this story. Don’t get caught up in the hype,’’ Cockerill said.
He added later: “New Zealand didn’t have too many ideas, but they did have a solution, even if it arrived late. Slow starters, but strong finishers. That the first half had been one of the poorest of the tournament so far wouldn’t have worried the All Whites one bit.”
There were no such comparisons from the All Blacks rugby squad who are in Dunedin preparing for a test against Wales on Saturday.
All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith said today that the All Blacks were thrilled with the historic 1-1 result and identified strongly with the enormity of the achievement in securing the country’s first ever points at the Cup.
"I think probably the whole team watched it,’’ said Smith who did have one confession. ‘‘I dozed off at the wrong time, but struggled to stay awake and missed the goal. But I’ll catch it on the replay.’’
Smith said the All Whites’ trailblazing exploits had struck a distinct chord with the All Blacks.
‘‘All of our team was interested, we trained in an all white strip yesterday and we’ve got some big soccer supporters in the team, led by Conrad Smith.’’
Smith said he very much understood the enormity of what the All Whites had achieved with their late equaliser.
‘‘It’s great isn’t it, it’s like a performance at the Olympics. When it’s a Kiwi it’s just great. My sons are huge soccer fans and we’ve got a lot of it in my household so I’m an interested spectator.’’
Further afield, the praise for the All Whites has been mixed, with Britain’s Guardian newspaper saying New Zealand have “startled” the tournament.
“The World Cup may not have seen a great game yet, but the tournament has been startled,” wrote Kevin McCarra in The Guardian.
"Nobody supposed this would be the fixture to set the World Cup alight at last. It might as well have been clad in asbestos for most of the time. New Zealand are absolved of blame. Their intent to attack was apparent in the use of three forwards and there is no shame in Ricki Herbert’s team making few chances.
“Herbert’s men continued to be engaging for the spirit that ensured there would be no collapse and the ultimate reward was handsome. Nonetheless it will be extremely taxing to repeat this feat of resilience.”
“Slovakia had attempted to win the match as unobtrusively as possible. The mastery was taken for granted until the moment Winston Reid presented New Zealand with a draw. The doggedness was a credit to Herbert’s squad, who did not flinch after the second-half opener from Robert Vittek. The ending rehabilitated an otherwise tiresome game.”
McCarra noted the romance of Reid’s late inclusion in the All Whites squad, noting his Maori ancestry and his residency in Denmark.
The Times of London was suitably impressed by the New Zealand effort.
“Herbert’s team can feel proud of their performance. With Paraguay and Italy still to come, this was their best opportunity to make history. Job done,” wrote Tom Dart of the Kiwis getting a result.
The writer quite rightly picked up the emotions that would be bubbling back in New Zealand, saying: "Winston Reid was not even eligible to play for New Zealand until a few weeks ago. Now he is a national icon.
"An economical and uninspired Slovakia had seemed to do just enough against the spirited but limited rank outsiders, courtesy of a second-half goal from Robert Vittek. But Reid popped up to earn New Zealand their first-ever World Cup point in their first appearance on the big stage since 1982.
“New Zealand were surprisingly neat and tidy in possession and mostly solid at the back, but offered next to nothing up front in the second half until Smeltz, their star striker, sent a header disappointingly wide inside the final three minutes. That had seemed to be the last chance until Reid’s astonishing intervention. He was booked for taking off his shirt in celebration – not that he will mind in the slightest.”
London’s tabloid Sun newspaper said the result would “send the Oceania side into raptures”.
"While they lost all three matches in their only previous finals appearance in 1982, few could argue this draw was not well deserved.
“Despite lacking the quality of Slovakia — who were making their debut at a World Cup as an independent country — New Zealand battled manfully for every ball. They started the brighter … and finished stronger.”
The Independent of Britain put a bit of perspective on the match when it wrote: "Both New Zealand and Slovakia are regarded as outsiders in South Africa, and after today’s ragged performance, they will both struggle against their group rivals.
"Slovakia, who upset the Czech Republic and Poland in qualifying, were the more polished team and created most of the game’s scoring chances.
“New Zealand’s tight man-to-man marking choked Slovakia’s disjointed attempts to move forward in the early stages, while the tall Kiwi strikers menaced the Slovakian defense but struggled to create clear opportunities.”
They did note the historic nature of New Zealand’s result, securing its first World Cup point.
The New York Times was captivated by the final stages if not the actual game.
“A wild finish capped off an otherwise tepid match in Rustenburg, as New Zealand, the second-lowest ranked team at the World Cup, clawed back in injury time to snatch a game-tying goal and a valuable point from Slovakia.”