Paraguay too strong for New Zealand

Paraguay's attacking finesse proved too much for New Zealand as the FIFA World Cup™ quarter-finalists held off a second half challenge for a 2-0 victory in an international friendly.

Paraguay showed superior finishing skills against the All Whites to ensure there was no repeat of the drab 0-0 draw when the two sides last met in the group stages of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. New Zealand, who finished with 10 men after defender Winston Reid was red-carded for an 89th minute challenge on Federico Santander, never looked like overturning the deficit after going two goals down in the first half hour.

The result gave the South Americans the only win of their Asian and Oceanian tour after 1-0 losses to Australia and Japan and a 1-1 draw with China. The All Whites, missing skipper Ryan Nelsen and striker Shane Smeltz through injury, sat back early on, wary of an opponent ranked 17th in the world.

Paraguay's Nelson Valdez attempted to take advantage with a number of long range shots but failed to trouble New Zealand keeper Mark Paston. The striker finally put the South Americans ahead through a 22nd-minute penalty, awarded after Edgar Benitez fell victim to a clumsy Ben Sigmund challenge.

Five minutes later, Paraguay midfielder Osvaldo Martinez found himself in the clear, latching onto an Enrique Vera through ball and flicking it over Paston's head. Paraguay asserted their dominance for the rest of the half as New Zealand's defence struggled without Nelsen's calming influence.

New Zealand came out firing after the break, creating a hatful of early chances, the best of which was a close range Jeremy Brockie volley cleared off the line by the feet of keeper Justo Villar. However, the All Whites could not take their chances and Paraguay were content to sit on their lead, soak up the pressure and attempt to hit New Zealand on the break.

New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert said the result was disappointing after the All Whites' surprise FIFA World Cup performance, where they finished as the only undefeated team, but saw encouraging signs for the Brazil 2014 campaign. "The depth's growing, football's in great shape (in New Zealand) and it's great to be part of it," he said.