x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Herbert hails his All White heroes

It was certainly a scoreline that shocked the World Cup as New Zealand held Italy, the holders, to a draw.

New Zealand's Shane Smeltz stuns Italy with the opening goal in Nelspruit yesterday.
New Zealand's Shane Smeltz stuns Italy with the opening goal in Nelspruit yesterday.

NELSPRUIT // Ricki Herbert, the New Zealand coach, called it a result that "stopped the nation". It was certainly a scoreline that shocked the World Cup as the All Whites held Italy, the holders, to a draw yesterday. New Zealand are used to playing such giants of the game as New Caledonia and Fiji but now the outsiders from Oceania are just one win away from the World Cup last 16 after a shock 1-1 result against Marcello Lippi's side

"It's the most incredible result we've had across the board. As a football coach, it's way above anything we've achieved in the history of the game," Herbert said. "We are always daring to dream. At the World Cup anything is possible - we've seen some strange results - but nothing as big as that one." The 78th-ranked All Whites took the lead in the seventh minute when a long free kick from Simon Elliott sailed deep into Italy's area and glanced off Fabio Cannavaro, the 36-year-old Italy captain, straight to the feet of Shane Smeltz for a tap in.

Riccardo Montolivo hit the post for Italy in the 27th minute, and Vincenzo Iaquinta equalised two minutes later from the penalty spot, after Tommy Smith was shown a yellow card for tugging down Daniele De Rossi inside the area. "We're just sorry we didn't win a match we could have," Lippi, who saw his team draw their opener against Paraguay by the same scoreline, said. "If we didn't win against New Zealand it's our fault. Once again the opponent scored on their first chance. We were able to control the game after that, but this was a match we should have won."

Iaquinta appeared to celebrate as if he were blowing a vuvuzela, the plastic trumpets that have become a symbol of the World Cup. At full time, however, the celebration was located in one corner of the stadium, where a small section of New Zealand fans marked their country's historic result by taking their shirts off and waving them around deliriously. Iaquinta complimented New Zealand's defence and called it a shame to draw. "We've got to keep our heads up and move on," he said.

New Zealand, playing in only their second World Cup - having lost all three of their matches in 1982 - gained a point for the second consecutive game after drawing 1-1 with Slovakia in their opener. Mark Paston, their goalkeeper, was virtually flawless, preserving the draw with a leaping save on a long, powerful effort from Montolivo in the 70th. Paraguay lead Group F with four points, followed by Italy and New Zealand with two points each. Slovakia are last with one point. Italy meet Slovakia in their final group match on Thursday. New Zealand face Paraguay knowing that a win would send them into the knockout round. * AP Man of the match Mark Paston (New Zealand)


Group F
Country M W D L GF GA Pts
Paraguay 2 1 1 0 3 1 4
Italy 2 0 2 0 2 2 2
New Zealand 2 0 2 0 2 2 2
Slovakia 2 0 1 1 1 3 1