They were supposed to be the also-rans of the group, a team that would be lucky to even manage a point in South Africa. Through staunch defending and timely goals however New Zealand proved they belong on the world stage despite bowing out of the tournament with a 0-0 draw against Paraguay.
Needing to defeat the strong South American outfit, New Zealand took a conservative approach in the first half by placing ten men behind the ball and looking for counter attack opportunities. This allowed the Paraguayans to hold much of the possession in the half with the Kiwis hardly threatening at all.
The second half saw both teams looking to open things up but the Kiwis were again unsuccessful at getting any attempts on net.
Perhaps the game’s best chance came in the the 76th minute through Paraguayan substitute Lucas Barrios who cut into the box and shot a rather weak ball at New Zealand keeper Mark Pastone who smothered the rebound before Barrios could get a second attempt.
Truth be told, knowing they needed a win to progress to the next stage, New Zealand’s defensive approach to the match gave them a very little chance to progress to the next round.
Paraguay was very much content with trying to break down the New Zealand defence and knew their superior goal difference would likely see them top the group with only the possibility of a Italian goal barrage putting that in doubt.
With Slovakia defeating Italy by a score of 3-2, Paraguay topped Group F with five points followed by Slovakia with four.
New Zealand though can take pride though that they do not finish bottom of the group that shockingly falls to 2006 World Cup champion Italy, a thought that would have been the farthest from thought before the tournament.
Paraguay will now wait to see who they draw in the next round. With the Netherlands currently topping the group with six points and a strong goal difference, the likely opponent will either be Denmark or Japan who are both on three points and take on each other later today. Cameroon has been eliminated from the tournament and take on the Dutch.
Paraguay will next see action on Tuesday June 29 in Pretoria.