Harry Ngata on the World Cup

Former All White Harry Ngata blogs about the Fifa World Cup

Harry Ngata: Unbeaten All Whites do NZ proud

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All Whites defender Ivan Vicelich and Paraguay's Victor Caceres vie for the ball during their World Cup match in Polokwane. Photo / Brett Phibbs
All Whites defender Ivan Vicelich and Paraguay's Victor Caceres vie for the ball during their World Cup match in Polokwane. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The All Whites can hold their heads high despite bowing out of the World Cup in Polokwane this morning.

The nation's dream of progressing to the knockout stages was ransacked by a stubborn Paraguay team destined to create their own piece of history. But to finish the tournament unbeaten and above defending champions Italy is an astounding achievement and something we should all be proud of.

Three intense World Cup games in eleven days, not to mention all the external hype, is a massive task.

Although the All Whites defended admirably, again they couldn't find the killer punch up front and it wasn't until the final ten minutes when they started to get that desperate urge.

Try as they might, the Kiwis continued to come up empty handed with Paulo Da Silva and Julio Cesar Caceres proving formidable foes in the heart of the Paraguay defence. The tanks seemed like they were pretty empty by the time Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura blew an end to their fairytale.

Paraguay needed only a draw and they certainly played with a subdued attitude for spells in the game. Their much talked about quick short passing game and intensity was substituted for a defensive strategy and three changes to their starting lineup gave me the impression they were playing with one foot in the next round.

Their tactical approach in pressing high throughout the first half didn't enable the likes of Simon Elliott to settle in the midfield. Elliott has great vision but even he found it difficult to get his head up and utilise his distribution qualities with multiple Paraguay defenders swarming around him like a bunch of bees. Perhaps it was a case of tired legs and heavy hearts.

Paraguay, however, did show glimpses of why South American football is king at the tournament so far with Nelson Valdez and Enrique Vera looking the most likely to spark them into action.

The All Whites players and staff must be commended for what has been an unbelievable adventure. This was truly a sporting campaign that has rocked the nation.

It's hard to believe that going into this game we were still in the running to progress to the final 16. Believing in something this special was definitely not a problem for Ryan Nelsen and co. They have all worn their hearts on their sleeves with pride and passion.

Well done Ricki Herbert, Brian Turner, Raul Blanco and all the support staff. You had a plan way back in October last year to play with three strikers - a decision questioned by many. But you persisted and never waivered from the way you wanted to approach this World Cup and it paid dividends.

To Ryan and the team, you have given our country a reason to embrace football again. Big kids, small kids and the old kids, of course, are all extremely proud of you. Your actions both on and off the park are an inspiration and an example for our children to aspire to be like you.

I'm really looking forward to 2014. Let's hope our game can progress so we can experience this feeling again.

Tu meke e hoa!

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