The All Whites got caught being too defensive against Paraguay in their important FIFA World Cup match and in the end a 0-0 draw was as good as a loss given that Slovakia defeated Italy in the other match. I think the New Zealand attitude of accepting a draw as a form of victory is misplaced satisfaction. This team has shown they can cut it at the top level and fans should stop being so politically correct and say that they are disappointed. For too long New Zealand football has been underperforming at the top level especially since player numbers in this country (approximately 1 in 20 people) or around 200,000 are the healthiest they have ever been and rival rugby where we are one of the best teams in the world. We would never expect the All Blacks to just show up to keep the score down, would we? We also need to play more matches against quality opposition.
Our tactics reminiscent of the Republic of Ireland long balls in the 1990 World Cup were found wanting against Paraguay as they easily shut us down. We were rarely a threat on attack with our toothless midfield lacking creativity. Mind you, journeymen Simon Elliott (unattached) and Ivan Vicelich (Auckland City FC) hardly have the big club contracts on display to give you confidence. The wide players like Leo Bertos and Tony Lochhead couldn't skin a lame Persian cat and was Rory Fallon never taught to keep his elbows in at the dinner table? The back three and Mark Paston were a great defensive unit, but they did get support from Vicelich at the expense of the attack.
I think Ricki Herbert was brilliant for most of the tournament, but should've changed the tired legs in midfield against Paraguay with some creativity. Why is it that we didn't see much of New Zealand's exciting midfielders Michael McGlinchey and Tim Brown? Was Brown still injured? These two guys are younger and would have added some spark to the middle of the park. They also would've gained experience invaluable for their futures in the game. Instead, we kept going for our long ball tactics which weren't working. We needed to change that a bit more towards the end. Sure, in subbing Vicelich it may have opened up our defence to concede a late goal or two and I am sure we wouldn't have minded. We also may scored a late winner.
In summary, while the three draws were a creditable performance, I think we should expect victory from the All Whites. It is no longer just good enough to walk out onto the park against other teams. They should've been more attacking minded in that second half against Paraguay when the long balls weren't working. Given the playing numbers and growing resources in football that New Zealand now has to offer, I think we can demand more high quality matches and winning results from our boys.
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