Saturday 23 September 2017

Herbert draws comfort from All Whites run as Paraguay reach summit

Paraguay 0
New Zealand 0

Paraguay booked their place in the last 16 of the World Cup after a scoreless draw with New Zealand saw them top Group F with five points.

Having opened with a draw against defending champions Italy, then secured a win over Slovakia, a dour stalemate in their final group game saw Paraguay through to the knockout stages as Slovakia beat Italy.

For their part, the All Whites picked up credible draws from their first two games but a third was not enough to see them progress.

However, another resolute performance by a nation playing at only their second World Cup -- the first coming in 1982 when they lost all three matches and conceded 12 goals -- will have given the fans back home, who stayed up for the 2.0 kick-off New Zealand time, something to cheer.

"I am delighted with what the guys have done. I'll need to pinch myself," said New Zealand coach Ricky Herbert. "Probably tonight was always going to be based on those one or two chances and if we got them, then great.

"It is really great we are talking about beating the likes of Paraguay. That is fantastic. We will not go through another World Cup unbeaten."

Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino saw plenty of room for improvement despite progressing.

"We played very badly in the first half and we played better in the second half," he said. "I'm pleased with the qualification but not with the way we played. We had a lot of problems in an area where we didn't expect, in attack."

Paraguay -- Villar; Morel Rodriguez, Da Silva, Julio Caceres, Caniza; Vera, Victor Caceres, Riveros, Haedo Valdez (Benitez 66); Santa Cruz, Cardozo (Barrios 66).

New Zealand -- Paston; Smith, Nelsen, Reid, Lochhead; Vicelich, Elliott, Bertos, Smeltz; Fallon (Wood 69), Killen (Brockie 79).

Ref -- Y Nishimura (Japan).

Irish Independent

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