Kiwis out despite unbeaten record
By Sports Network
POLOKWANE - Paraguay wrapped up first place in Group F on Thursday with a 0-0 tie against New Zealand at Peter Mokaba Stadium in the FIFA World Cup.
Paraguay was unbeaten in the group with a win and two draws, while New Zealand finished third and was eliminated despite not losing a match. The Kiwis earned draws in all three of their matches, but finished third behind Slovakia.
Slovakia eliminated defending World Cup champion Italy with a 3-2 win Thursday in the other match in Group F. Italy finished last in the group.
Paraguay plays the Group E runner-up on Tuesday in the round of 16. Slovakia plays the Group E winner on Monday in the round of 16.
Paraguay enjoyed far more possession in the opening 45 minutes, but the South American side did little with it. Paraguay did manage seven shots but put just one on target and it didn't trouble New Zealand goalie Mark Paston.
New Zealand managed just one shot in the opening half, but the Kiwis responded with a great chance less than five minutes into the second half. Simon Elliott found a poor clearance just outside the penalty area, but shot wide left.
Paraguay earned the first corner of the game in the 62nd minute, and it almost turned into the first goal. Claudio Morel Rodriguez played the corner kick to Denis Caniza on the top-right edge of the area and he slipped a second pass to Cristian Riveros.
Riveros fired through traffic from 12 yards, but Paston deflected the shot and New Zealand cleared over the end line for another corner kick. Paraguay failed to take advantage of the second opportunity, as the Kiwis again cleared.
Paraguay forced another fine save from Paston in the 76th after Oscar Cardozo chased down a pass on the left side and passed to Enrique Vera inside the box. Vera set up a right-footed shot, but Paston again deflected the effort and was saved by his defense as the Kiwis cleared with Lucas Barrios lurking.
Santa Cruz forced Paston to make another save minutes later on a long shot but it was only a half-chance. Barrios followed with another chance for Paraguay, but headed wide.
New Zealand substitute Chris Wood turned an effort off target in the 83rd, and Santa Cruz chipped a free kick to Barrios in the 85th but he couldn't convert.
The Kiwis had another chance in the closing five minutes, but Leo Bertos could not manage to sneak an 18-yard short through traffic and Paraguay cleared.
Paraguay had one last chance to end group play with a victory but Morel's free kick from 19 yards failed to create a shot on goal, as both squads ended the stage undefeated but with extremely different emotions.