Hosts New Zealand have kicked off the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup by drawing 0-0 with Ukraine in front of a packed North Harbour Stadium. The lack of goals in this Auckland encounter wasn't for the want of chances, but a lack of composure too often proved the undoing of both sides.
The Junior All Whites certainly couldn't have asked for any greater backing, with a sell-out crowd of 25,000 cramming in to set a new record attendance for a FIFA match in New Zealand. There was precious little for the Kiwi fans to cheer in the first half though as Ukraine dominated, creating the better of what few chances there were.
Artem Biesiedin was among the Europeans' danger men and he twice came close, first forcing Oli Sail into a smart save before leading a speedy breakaway that ended with a disappointingly wayward shot. New Zealand did have one, glorious opportunity of their own though, when Matthew Ridenton headed over from close range after Sam Brotherton had risen highest to meet a Kiwi corner.
The game became more open in the second period and the hosts should have taken the lead inside a couple of minutes. Clayton Lewis was the guilty party on this occasion, leaning back at the crucial moment to shoot over after breaking through on to an incisive pass from Alex Rufer.
Ukraine were wasteful too, with both Eduard Sobol and Mykyta Tatarkov failing to even test Sail after being teed up in excellent positions. And they had their keeper, Bohdan Sarnavskyi, to thank for emerging with a point after he dived to make a crucial save from Noah Billingsley's late sliding effort. The Kiwis, who finished strongly, also missed a glorious late opportunity when Sam Brotherton headed inexplicably wide from inside the six-yard box.
New Zealand will now take on USA, again in Auckland, in their second match, while Ukraine go up against tournament debutants Myanmar.