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Thursday, June 24, 2010
Herbert delighted with All Whites

Andrew Warshaw, Polokwane

New Zealand boss Ricki Herbert said he was delighted with his players after they exited the World Cup with three draws.

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In their only previous World Cup appearance, in 1982, they lost all three games and conceded 12 goals, but they defied expectations of a similar fate this time around to secure draws against Slovakia, Italy and Paraguay.

One goal for the All Whites in the 0-0 draw with Paraguay would have been enough to see them progress but Herbert, who also manages A-League side Wellington Phoenix, was in positive mood after the match.

"I'm proud and disappointed at the same time," said Herbert, who played in the 1982 New Zealand team. "Once again a side struggled to penetrate us. To come through this World Cup unbeaten, it's something I could only dream about. No-one is a prouder man than me. To come here and completely reverse what we've done in the past, I'm having to punch myself. A lot of people thought we shouldn't even have been here. I'm going on holiday to Hong Kong tomorrow - and I'm going to enjoy it."

If New Zealand, ranked 78th in the world going into the tournament, had played with more adventure, they may well have written the greatest story in modern World Cup history. But with only 25 fully-fledged professionals at their disposal, their approach was perhaps understandable.

"It was really important for us to stay in the match for as long as we could," said Herbert, who has become an iconic figure in the space of three weeks. "We went to the bench with all the faculties at our disposal but the very fact we are talking about trying to beat teams like Paraguay, we'll never go through another World Cup like it."

Paraguay, who only needed a draw to make certain of qualification, ended up topping group F after what was, in truth, a dreadfully dull encounter that was in stark contrast to the drama in Johannesburg to the south.

Paraguay's Manchester City striker Roque Santa Cruz admitted his team, which has never gone beyond the quarter-finals, should have done better in a match of precious few chances. Like Italy and Serbia before them, Paraguay found it tough to break down a resolute Kiwi defence.

"We're not entirely happy but the purpose of the exercise was to get through," Santa Cruz said. "It was a very one-sided game that you only have once in a while, playing a team that concentrates entirely on defence. That won't happen in the next round. But we are certainly going to have to be more patient."

With their first ever quarter-final within touching distance, Santa Cruz believes his team has the momentum to keep going. "We haven't set any ceiling but the objective we have set is to get to the last eight. That would be good enough. Anything better is a dream."

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