New Zealand fans celebrated their team's first ever FIFA World Cup™ point Wednesday as one of the country's greatest sporting achievements after the All Whites drew 1-1 against Slovakia. As the All Whites made their first appearance on the FIFA World Cup finals stage since 1982, when they lost all three matches heavily, the fans reacted after the injury time equaliser as if their team had won.
Most watched the game -- which started at 11.30 pm local time -- at home, although some diehards gathered in bars around the country as football fever for once eclipsed the passion associated with the All Blacks rugby team.
New Zealand Herald sports columnist Chris Rattue summed up their feelings when he described the result as a great day for New Zealand sport. "I have seen many great New Zealand sporting moments over the years but nothing to match this," he said.
The Herald also said the result had given the sport credibility in New Zealand, where it has always struggled against rugby. "Make no mistake; this is a remarkable achievement. It's not something many would have expected when they slumped to an embarrassing 4-2 defeat to [Pacific island team] Vanuatu in 2004," the newspaper said on its website.
Sam Malcolmson, who played in the 1982 All Whites -- the only other New Zealand team to make the FIFA World Cup finals -- said coach Ricki Herbert's side had proved they had earned their place in South Africa. "A lot of people have said worldwide we don't deserve to be there and their passage was made easy," Malcolmson told Radio New Zealand. "Well, we do deserve to be there and we had an excellent result and the other two teams will not be relishing playing New Zealand."
New Zealand next play reigning world champions Italy before taking on Paraguay in the final Group F match.