New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert was a happy man after watching his side claim a first ever FIFA Confederations Cup point in nine attempts as they drew against Iraq in Johannesburg tonight. Playing in their third finals following appearances in 1999 and 2003, the All Whites were facing the possibility of leaving South Africa after another pointless tournament, with losses to Spain and the hosts in their previous two Group A games, but his side more than held their own to win back some pride.
The result also knocked out the Asian champions, who needed to win and hope that Bafana Bafana lose against the Spaniards, a game which went in their favour after La Roja's 2-0 triumph. But it was all about the New Zealanders for Herbert and he was predictably thrilled.
"I think tonight was another milestone for the country," he said. "We proved a few doubters wrong with the way we played.
"I thought the team was magnificent tonight. The tournament in general has been excellent," said Herbert. "We've thoroughly enjoyed playing our part and I think tonight we've showed that and we look forward to hopefully being back here in 2010."
It was a convincing performance from the Oceania champions, who should have won the game considering their chances. The coach continued: "We've never come to a tournament and got a point - and we've certainly never dictated a game as much as we did here. And I think at half time tonight, we were probably disappointed that were weren't two or three goals up with the chances we had.
"I think it was important that the players left with a lot of strength and credibility tonight," he said. "You know, I'm delighted and tonight is certainly a celebration for me."
Iraq coach Bora Milutinovic was also satisfied with the way things went, despite being knocked out at the Ellis Park Stadium. He said: "My players played really well, I must compliment them and even though we didn't get the desired result, they still worked really hard to try and achieve this goal.
"We came close on many occasions, but we didn't score, but this is just the way sometimes in football," he said.
"Normally I am not happy when my side doesn't go through, but what they did and the way they played makes me very happy. They are moral victors."
Looking back at their overall performance in the three games, he continued: "After these three matches, I can say that in each match our players have shown that they can play a good game of football.
"They have an extraordinary tactical discipline that makes me very proud and the only thing I hope is that they'll be able to play football with all freedom, enjoy life and bring a lot of joy to the people of Iraq."
As for his own future, Milutinovic, who was only put in charge on temporary basis shortly before the tournament began, added: "I cannot say what will happen in the future. Whether I am going to be with Iraq or not will depend on the federation. But I am a coach and will continue as a coach."