'We keep on dreaming'
New Zealand defender Winston Reid, who almost chose Denmark before agreeing to play for the All Whites, headed a last-gasp goal to secure a 1-1 draw against Slovakia on Tuesday and secure their first ever World Cup point.
"I think the nation will be in reasonably good spirits tonight," said modest New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert. "We keep on dreaming. We have a chance like everyone else."
Asked if it was their best ever achievement he added:
"It would have to be. We have never picked up a point at a World Cup. We have thrown some really good punches tonight and got what I thought was an extremely good result".
Image: New Zealand's Winston Reid (left) takes off his jersey as he celebrates his goal with team mates
Vittek gives Slovakia the lead
Slovakia had enjoyed most possession in an opening half littered with errors with few chances created. Only New Zealand's organisation enabled them to stay in contention.
The Slovaks struggled for a breakthrough until Robert Vittek's headed goal after 50 minutes.
That appeared to be enough to secure the points but New Zealand refused to give up and, as the Slovaks appeared content to play out time.
Image: Slovakia's Robert Vittek (right) heads to score past New Zealand goalkeeper Mark Paston
New Zealand frustrated the cautious Slovaks
It was a rare moment of quality in a dreary game during which New Zealand, using a 3-4-3 formation, largely frustrated the cautious Slovaks who appeared reinvigorated after advice at the interval about how to approach the second half.
The Slovaks lifted their tempo and pushed forward more aggressively from then on and gave New Zealand few chances to regain a foothold in the game, their superior technique and movement giving them control of possession.
Image: Slovakia's Zdeno Strba (left) fights for the ball with Shane Smeltz
Reid's maiden goal saves New Zealand
Reid, 21, who has lived in Denmark for 11 years where he plays for top flight Midtjylland, scored his first goal on his fourth appearance for New Zealand with a well-placed far-post header with 30 seconds remaining in the game.
Pushed forward in search of an equaliser, Reid timed his run and jump perfectly to meet an angled Shane Smeltz cross from the left with a header that went in off the foot of the post.
Image: Winston Reid scores the equaliser
Reid had turned down New Zealand in 2007
Reid, who has a Danish step-father, was in the Denmark under-21 team and national development system and had turned down a chance to play for New Zealand in 2007 before finally accepting Herbert's approach the second time.
Until Reid's late strike Slovakia, making their World Cup debut as an independent nation, had seemed set to top the group ahead of world champions Italy and Paraguay who drew 1-1 in the group opener on Monday.
The goal brought joy to New Zealand fans everywhere as they celebrated their team's achievement after the All Whites had suffered three straight defeats in their only previous World Cup appearance in Spain in 1982.
Image: Winston Reid celebrates his goal