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Jay Scardina On June - 16 - 2010

Slovakia vs New Zealand 1-1 World Cup Draw Yet Again

Today was another first for the World Cup, Slovakia played their first World Cup game as an independent nation. Their opponent was New Zealand, who are currently ranked 78th by FIFA, and were making their second appearance ever in the World Cup since 1982 . The game was played in the same stadium as the USA vs. England match from this past Saturday in Rustenburg. Also, just like the USA team Slovakia have a father and son team connection. Vladimir Weiss coaching the team, and his son with the same name, playing on the right wing. Because of Italy and Paraguay drawing, the group just became a little tighter. Technically whoever won the second match from Group F today would take the lead in the table, until the next group game is played.

You may not have known from watching the game on television, but it was a very cold day. The temperature was around 40 degrees Fahrenheit (around 4 or 5 degrees Celsius) and the wind was blowing at 15 miles an hour (24 Kilometers per hour) at the start of the match. So if there were any complaints about the ball, imagine playing with it in these conditions. New Zealand was going with a 3-4-3 formation, and Slovakia playing with a 4-1-3-2. It seemed that the Slovakian team took a little while to get settled in. New Zealand was controlling the ball and passing the ball very close to the box. The first shot was from distance by New Zealand, and then a header that was saved by the Slovakia goalkeeper, Mucha. Vladimir Weiss then had the first shot for Slovakia. The game started to shift, and Slovakia became the more dominant team. They were controlling the ball in the midfield and keeping it in New Zealand’s half. They started to create several chances, and looked to open the game up with a goal after Weiss and Sestak combined for a clear shot. Sestak’s shot was wide and went past the post instead. The first yellow card was shown to New Zealand player Lochhead, and resulted in a free kick for Slovakia. The free kick was passed to Hamsik, who nailed it towards the goal, but was again denied by the New Zealand keeper, Paston. It seemed like another game that might be determined by how long the goalkeepers could hold out.

When the second half got started it looked like Slovakia were very hungry to try and get the opening goal to this match. They played the ball wide, and were using Weiss to get the ball into New Zealand’s third of the field. Then on the 49th Weiss passed the ball to Sestak who crossed it into the box, and Vittek headed it into the goal. It looked like Vittek may’ve been slightly offsides, but it was very close and the flag stayed down. Slovakia then locked down the defense and switched to a 4-4-2 formation to try and keep the lead. Slovakia was doing a great job at keeping the ball and they tried to add another goal to secure a win. The best chance came from Sestak who caught a long pass, beating two defenders. He passed it back to Hamsik who kicked it over the crossbar. Then in the 68th minute Vittek had a another shot on goal, but it was blocked at the last second from the Kiwi’s defender, Reid. New Zealand was looking tired for most of the second half. They were chasing Slovakia all over the pitch. Slovakia made their 3 subs in the last official ten minutes of the game, which seemed like a great strategy. Vittek and Weiss were subbed out for Stoch and Kucka respectively. I think that Slovakia made one fatal error, not subbing out a defender in the back. In the 92nd minute Slovakia lost possession in their half and paid for it with a header from Reid who scored the equalizer.

Slovakia should have won this game, but it was just further proof that the World Cup can be very unpredictable. It looked like this game would be determined by one goal, or a goalless draw. Instead we get a very late draw from out of nowhere. Now Group F looks like another group of death. Every team in the group is even with points and goal differentials. This will be a tough group and I don’t think that any team really has an advantage over the other at this time. If Slovakia want to make it out of their group they have to win their next game, or else it will be a long flight back home.

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