All Whites' Cup exploits lauded worldwide

Football writers around the world have been unanimous in their praise for the plucky All Whites effort at the World Cup this morning.

Michael Walker, writing in the Daily Mail, called New Zealand's underdog result "the most heart-warming and unforeseen development at the World Cup".

He complimented NZ on "defensive obduracy epitomised by Blackburn's Ryan Nelsen".

Walker picked up on goalkeeper Mark Paston's comment that the All Whites have 'come a long way'.

"Geographically - they certainly have."

The Guardian had a column by an expat Kiwi, Toby Manhire.

He called today "the day New Zealand finally fell in love with that round-ball game".

Manhire commented on his acquaintance with a youthful Simon Elliott in his younger days: "it's true - every New Zealander knows every other New Zealander.

Andrew Dillon in The Sun was full of praise:

"The reigning champions simply could not account for the sheer guts and determination of New Zealand, ranked 78th in the world - behind the likes of Montenegro, Macedonia, Uganda, Panama and Wales.

"Herbert's squad is one of contrasts. Premier League stalwart Nelsen rubs shoulders with ex-Rochdale winger Leo Bertos, former Halifax Town forward Smeltz and investment banker Andy Barron, who came on as a 90th-minute sub.

"The only stars are on the country's flag, which is flying high among those of the best teams in the world today.

New Zealand were clearly still on a high from their exploits in the opening game when Reid, who switched his nationality from Danish just three months ago, scored in the third minute of injury-time.

Another country whose arrival on the global football stage has been fairly recent is the USA. CNN had this to say:

"For New Zealand, a team ranked 73 places below Italy in FIFA's official world rankings, the result is one to savour.

"It's an incredible result and it's way above anything we have achieved before against the stature of our competitors," New Zealand's coach Ricki Herbert said.

And the Los Angeles Times reported matter-of-factly, "the lightly regarded Kiwis are elated and the defending champion Azzurri are downcast with the result. Each team has two points after two games."

Across the Tasman, the Sydney Morning Herald marvelled at the All Whites' perplexing achievement.

"This was a famous day for New Zealand football, a famous day for New Zealand anything," wrote Dan Silkstone.

"This match pitted holders against hangers-on. Four-time world champions and current holder of the World Cup trophy met New Zealand, expected to be making up the numbers here. Bravely not so.

"One point and one goal, both against Slovakia had tens of thousands of Kiwi supporters daring to hope for some kind of miracle. The kind that had allowed tiny Switzerland to shut down Spain - only bigger.

"They so nearly got it after Shane Smeltz put them ahead on seven minutes. Technically off-side but not picked up. A stroke of luck. A moment they will make bronze statues about."

Regrettably, Silkstone continued, "Italian football can defy the laws of physics; only here does a small pull backwards on the shirt send a grown man tumbling forwards. New Zealand fell victim to a familiar trick as Italy milked a half-there penalty to even the score.

"Thereupon Ricki Herbert's men retreated behind the ball but not without a plan, nor without intent. Now the All Whites stand on the precipice of the second round.

"Paraguay awaits, and the chance to make yet more history."

In England, The Telegraph's correspondent Rory Smith waxed lyrical:

"All over the glistening, ultra-modern Mbombela Stadium, patches of white whirled, New Zealand shirts stripped from chests and held aloft in defiance and delight. The team that came as cannon fodder had just detonated Italy's World Cup hopes.

"The reigning champions, of course, can still qualify for the last 16 with victory in their final game against Slovakia. They most likely will. But any pretence Marcello Lippi and his side had of retaining their trophy was exposed as folly by the team from the ultimate backwater, the proverbial team of part-timers and no-hopers ....

"Shane Smeltz, once deemed not good enough by Halifax, handed Ricki Herbert's side the lead. Only through Daniele De Rossi's canny trickery did Italy break through the wall of white, the Roma player winning a penalty expertly converted by Juventus's Vincenzo Iaquinta.

"There was nothing lucky about this point, though, for New Zealand, standard-bearers of the smaller nations. They qualified by beating the likes of Vanuatu ..., but any doubts that they might not have deserved their place can be cast aside."

On The Guardian's website Rob Smythe prophetically blogged before kick-off: "Italy may traditionally be the suave sophisticates of world football, bestriding the scene with an imperious elegance and in a suit so sharp that it should be illegal, yet when it comes to the World Cup they have a peculiar habit of creating a huge wet patch around the business area of their £4000 cotton slacks.

"Of all the superpowers, Italy have suffered the greatest humiliations against the minnows of world football: defeat to North Korea in 1966, going 1-0 down to Haiti in 1974 - before which Dino Zoff had gone a record 1143 minutes without conceding a goal - losing to Ireland in 1994 and then South Korea in 2002.

"You wouldn't expect them to mess up against New Zealand, this is surely the biggest mismatch of the tournament: the world champions against the 2000-1 outsiders."

And after the final whistle: "It's the feel good hit of the summer.

They put in such a resourceful display, and were led sensationally by the brilliant Ryan Nelsen.

"New Zealand have infused this World Cup with the sort of innocent, everyman charm that was seemingly lost to top-level football. After two games, they are only behind Italy on alphabetical order."

Italy's sports daily La Gazetta Dello Sport's glum headline required little translation: "Flop Italia, Ora si nischia". There was also a reference to "miseria". The papal inquisition has only just begun.

- NZHERALD STAFF, additional reporting by NZPA

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