In a thrilling Group B encounter, New Zealand held Uruguay to a 1-1 draw, with an inspired performance from Kiwi goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic thwarting a strong attacking display from the South Americans in Cali.
In a group starved of goals, it appeared as if Uruguay would be the first to break open the drought as they successively hammered Marinovic’s net throughout the first half. But it was New Zealand, who snatched the lead after the break through Andrew Bevin before Adrian Luna rescued a draw for the Uruguayans.
Uruguay were sparked by the return of Luna, and on 14 minutes, the midfielder showed his first bit of offensive prowess. The No7 beat Nick Branch to a chipped ball from Matias Vecino, but his proceeding shot lacked power.
La Celeste were knocking on the door, and were narrowly denied again after a long-range throw-in from Leandro Cabrera. Cesar Texeira flicked the throw-in on to Angel Cayetano at the far post, but Marinovic quickly denied the No5.
The keeper was becoming a thorn in the Uruguayans’ sides. From the left flank, Luna served in a free-kick into the area, but Cabrera, who was within a whisker of connecting, saw Marinovic punch away the chance. New Zealand rarely had an opportunity, and on 37 minutes Marco Rojas fired a free-kick keeper Salvador Izacho had no trouble handling.
At the other end, Vecino hit a bending cross that deflected off the crossbar directly onto the feet of Cepellini, who found Texeira all alone in the area. Texeira one-timed the chance, but Marinovic pulled off an incredible and unlikely save. And, the Uruguayans would go into the break empty-handed, after an outstanding rising shot from Polenta found its way into New Zealand’s net, only to learn the referee had already whistled for a foul in the area.
New Zealand came out firing in the second half, certainly lifted by their first-half survival. The Kiwis were dangerous on the counter, and to the South Americans shock, took the lead on 57 minutes. With a diving header, Andrew Bevin gave New Zealand hope, after Marco Rojas had done well to cross into the area.
Despite more possession for the Uruguayans, Dakota Lucas gave the South Americans a few more scares. Uruguay finally got the goal they deserved, though, in the 74th minute through playmaker Luna. After a brilliant bit of passing between Texeira and Luna, the No7 snuck a crosswise shot past Marinovic. La Celeste searched for the elusive game-winner, and Luna found Vecino in the box, but the chance was denied by Marinovic's left foot.
Uruguay ultimately had to settle for a share of the spoils, and will be made to work for progression as they face Cameroon in their final group match on 5 August. New Zealand will also be chasing their Round of 16 chance the same day against Portugal.