Winston Reid scored a dramatic equaliser deep into injury time to give New
Zealand their first-ever point in the World Cup finals.
It was also New Zealand's first goal in the finals for 28 years and sparked
wild celebrations among the All Whites supporters inside the Royal Bafokeng
Reid was booked for his own celebration when he ripped off his shirt and
twirled it around his head after bulleting home a header from Shane Smeltz's
It was an historic moment in New Zealand football, considering the Kiwis had
lost all three of their previous group matches at their only other appearance in
the finals in 1982.
Reid's late strike cancelled out a 50th-minute goal from Slovakia's Robert
Vittek, which was also historic. It was the nation's first-ever goal in their
debut match at the World Cup finals.
Vittek repaid the faith his manager, Vladimir Weiss, had shown in him after he
went through the qualifying campaign without scoring. It was also a flying
header, drilled past New Zealand goalkeeper Mark Paston.
Although television replays suggested Vittek, who has been playing his football
for Ankaragucu in Turkey on a loan deal from Lille, might have been offside when
he met a sweet cross from Stanislas Sestak, it was just reward for Slovakia's
They were the better side, outplaying for long periods a New Zealand team whose
only previous finals appearance in 1982 ended in three straight defeats, 3-0 to
the Soviet Union, 4-0 to Brazil and 5-2 to Scotland.
The All Whites are a side comprising five English league players, captain Ryan
Nelsen from Blackburn, Chris Killen from Middlesbrough, Ipswich's Tommy Smith,
Plymouth's Rory Fallon and substitute Chris Wood from West Brom who replaced
Killen in the second-half.
They have plenty of guts and pride, but technically they were some way inferior
to a Slovak side for whom 20-year-old Vladimir Weiss, the manager's son who
played just one game for Manchester City before being loaned out to Bolton last
season, was a constant inspiration in midfield.
The first half was just about as sterile a 45 minutes as this goal-starved
World Cup has witnessed. The most exciting moment came from a mistake from
Paston who fluffed his kick-out. Vittek pounced on the mistake and looked like
making New Zealand pay but Paston recovered to smother his attempt.
The action was so pedestrian it had to improve and it did with Vittek's goal
allowing Slovakia to play with more freedom.
Until the last five minutes New Zealand's best effort had been when Killen rose
highest in the penalty area but dispatched his header straight into the arms of
Slovakia goalkeeper Jan Mucha.
Yet they mounted a spirited late rally which saw substitute Wood go close with
a diving header.
Little were we to know an even better one was to come from Reid to leave New
Zealand, Slovakia, Italy and Paraguay locked on a point each in Group F.