Full credit to World Cup minnows New Zealand. Slovakia pressured them all over the park today, forcing them to repeatedly cough up the Jabulani like a dingo with a hairball. High pressure all over the pitch is something you see in kids’ games, but not this level. Why?
Because your opponent can destroy you with 1v1 skills or quick interpassing since high pressure makes it hard to have backup, or “second” defenders. This is why the Celtics don’t try the full-court press against the Lakers. Slovakia dared the All Whites to beat them with individual skills and they couldn’t.
But one of the great Life Lessons in football is, “what the individual cannot achieve, sometimes the collective can.” What I did see is New Zealand gaining in creativity and confidence as time went on, holding the ball for more and more passes, until their last-minute speculative cross found Winston Reid’s head, and from there the foot of the post and the back of the net.
New Zealand didn’t tie it in the last minute — they tied it during the entire 90+ by keeping shape, tackling and chasing. If the score hadn’t been only 0-1, their goal at the death would’ve been nothing but a consolation. Full credit to this modest team that had no quit in them.