Three quick thoughts: New Zealand-Slovakia
Three quick thoughts after New Zealand's surprising 1-1 draw with Slovakia in Group F on Tuesday:
1. The FIFA rule change on citizenship has helped New Zealand. Some people have questioned New Zealand's right to be in the World Cup. After all, before Tuesday, this is a nation that in tournaments outside of Oceania had gone 0-1-11 (W-T-L) with a goals for/against total of 4-36. Last summer's Confederations Cup performance was equally shambolic, but since then, New Zealand has been strengthened immensely by the additions of players such as defenders Winston Reid (ex-Denmark youth international), Tommy Smith (ex-England youth international) and forward Rory Fallon (ex-England youth international) -- all of whom started Tuesday, with Reid scoring the late tying goal.
2. Slovakia's Vladimir Weiss might be the one to keep an eye on. Almost all of the pre-tournament talk around Slovakia centered on captain Marek Hamsik, a talent comparable to a young Michael Ballack. However, against New Zealand, Hamsik disappointed, often rushing his shots and failing to assert his influence. Of course, being curiously deployed out wide at times didn't help Hamsik -- he's a player who thrives on making late runs into the box and being played through the middle. By contrast, Man City starlet Weiss, whose father is the Slovakia coach, shone. Weiss showed plenty of pace and energy and was a threat both down the right and all over the field.
3. The result is a massive setback to Slovakia. Let's face it, New Zealand is just happy to be here. The All Whites are 400-1 outsiders, and if you told them before the tournament that they'd end with just one point, they'd have taken it and probably celebrated to boot. For Slovakia, however, this result is a huge blow to its chances of progressing. In what was expected to be a three-way race along with Italy and Paraguay, Slovakia will now likely need to beat one of either Italy or Paraguay to even have a shot at qualifying to the round of 16.
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