Harry Ngata on the World Cup
Former All White Harry Ngata blogs about the Fifa World Cup

Harry Ngata: Step aside Richie, all hail Winston


Forget about Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, New Zealand has a new hero. Winston Wiremu Reid scored a dramatic 93rd minute equaliser to secure a well deserved 1-1 draw in the All Whites opening match against Slovakia to send the country into hysterics.

Rory Fallon was the caped crusader against Bahrain and it would have been easy to single out Reid as his successor, but it was the hardened edge to All Whites' game that got them over the line and secure our first ever point at the World Cup.

Led once again by Ryan Nelsen, New Zealand were tight and compact at the back in the opening stages and looked more comfortable with Chris Killen going close inside five minutes.

Team selection was the most debated subject leading into this game, especially around the experienced legs of Simon Elliot and Ivan Vicelich. I felt this paid dividends as Slovakia failed to get into any sort of consistent rhythm and looked tentative at times.

Both sides failed to retain the ball and boss the other in the first half. Vladimir Weiss and Robert Vittek combined well in patches and looked the most likely to unsettle the All Whites' defensive lines.

Simon Elliot again proved why he is the mainstay in the midfield with another commanding performance. His awareness and composure are invaluable in areas where games are won and lost. His relentless leg work and unselfish attitude led to him receiving some one on one attention form Slovakia hard man Zdeno Strba late in the game.

Tommy Smith continued his rise on the international stage with his quiet yet effective sort of game. He goes unnoticed for long periods which can be a good thing. He is the sort of 'head down and do my job' type of player.

I still think we can get a lot more out of our wider players. They had to tuck in a lot more and provide extra man power in the middle of the park, where Slovakia threatened in patches.

Tony Lochhead managed to get forward into good areas at times and his delivery was an improvement on past displays.

Bertos, on the other side, wasn't able to replicate Lochhead and lacked a bit of confidence to back himself one on one to get past his defender.

On more than one occasion we seemed content to cross from deep areas. If we can get around the back of the Italians in game two and pull crosses back from the byline we may see results. It's much easier to defend when you can see where the ball is coming from with your attacker in front of you.

We've seen some howlers by some of the goalkeepers in the opening few days and we were fortunate that a couple of Mark Paston blunders were not punished. I know Pasty is his own worst critic. He demands nothing but perfection when he plays and will be doing everything he can to make sure he does not repeat parts of his performance this morning.

On the whole, Ricki Herbert and co will be absolutely delighted with the point but I can imagine the likes of Nelsen, Elliot and Vicelich will be disappointed that a win has slipped by. You have to take things as they come and the fact that Vittek had strayed ever so slightly into an offside position to score is heart breaking. The fact that the country's expectations have increased dramatically is also a reflection on what this team has done and could potentially achieve.

A first ever win at a World Cup is becoming more realistic by the day.

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