World Cup post-game: New Zealand 0, Paraguay 0
A scoreless draw against New Zealand was all Paraguay needed to become the fourth South American club to advance to the round of 16 at the FIFA World Cup.
Yet another South American team has qualified for the round of 16.
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Paraguay joins Brazil and Argentina, perennial powerhouses from that region, as well as Uruguay as the South American teams into the next round. There could potentially be one more too, as Chile is still alive and likely to pass through in Group H.
Paraguay didn't display much effort or urgency in Thursday's draw against New Zealand, but that didn't matter. New Zealand barely got a sniff at goal, putting forward only four shots in all — none on target — in the entire 90 minutes.
Paraguay's three-man striking unit has been enterprising and entertaining in the tournament, but had trouble getting shots through the All Whites' defending and shot blocking in this game, often having to settle for shots from 25-30 yards out. Still, the Paraguayans accomplished their goal — a berth in the second round.
New Zealand pressed as the clock ticked down, playing with just two defenders and pushing everyone else forward for the final 10 minutes, but it was too little too late.
Still, the Kiwis have to be proud of their tournament. Three draws in three games against teams well ahead of them in the FIFA world rankings is nothing to be ashamed of, especially when many soccer purists felt the Oceania representatives shouldn't be in the World Cup in the first place.
So, while a berth in the round of 16 would have been "sweet as" for the Kiwis, grabbing points in all their games, scoring two goals and finishing ahead of the reigning world champs with a lineup of mostly semi-professional players is reason for Ricki Herbert's club to celebrate.
What this results means
Paraguay's scoreless draw against New Zealand secured its No. 1 seed in Group F, while New Zealand's tournament is over, as it needed a win in order to advance. Slovakia earns the second berth into the round of 16 with its 3-2 win over defending champion Italy.
New Zealand does finish third in the group, ahead of the Azzurri, which is a big accomplishment for the Oceania representatives.
It's hard to pull a turning point out of a scoreless draw, but Paraguay may been concerned that midfielder Victor Caceres won't be in the team's lineup in their round of 16 game. Caceres picked up his second yellow card of the tournament on a careless tackle to the Achilles of Rory Fallon, which rules him out of the next match.
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Man of the match
Since we don't have any goals to speak of in this fixture, let's choose one player from each team.
Roque Santa Cruz of Paraguay had the lion's share of chances for the White and Red. His deceiving quickness caught the New Zealand defence by surprise at times, but the Manchester City striker's finishing will have to be better in the next round.
For New Zealand, Mark Paston's goalkeeping once again kept the All Whites in this contest. The undeniable star in the Kiwis' draw over Italy, Paston was once again up for the task when called upon. His point blank stop on a Cristian Riveros header in the second half as well as his punching away of Santa Cruz's blistering free kick in the 79th minute are worthy of mention.
The New Zealand perspective
"There is no good way to leave the World Cup, but leaving together with Italy and (2006 finalist) France can't be too bad." — All Whites manager Ricki Herbert.
The Paraguayan perspective
"I'm not happy with the way we played, but I'm pleased we made it through. We'll need to improve a fair bit if we want to keep progressing." — Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino.