New Zealand take part in the World Cup's 750th match today.
New Zealand take on Paraguay in Group F today, and while it is a vital fixture for both sides as they look to qualify for the last 16, it is also a FIFA World Cup milestone, being the tournament's 750th match.
New Zealand’s football team are known as the ‘All Whites’ to reflect their playing strip. The country has formidable rugby and cricket teams, but its footballers have only qualified for one previous World Cup finals.
Ricki Herbert’s side made it through to South Africa 2010 after beating Bahrain in a play-off. It finished 0-0 in Manama and 1-0 to New Zealand in Wellington. Now, having drawn their first two games in Group F against Slovakia and Italy, they take on Paraguay knowing victory would see them progress into the knockout stage.
In their only other finals appearance, in Spain in 1982, they found themselves in a particularly tough group. They lost 5-2 to Scotland, 3-0 to USSR and 4-0 to mighty Brazil.
England also have some experience of the antipodeans, having met the Kiwis twice in six days during their 1991 Summer Tour, which also included matches against Australia and Malaysia. The New Zealand FA was celebrating its Centenary and its national team put on a brave display in the first encounter in Auckland’s Mount Smart Stadium.
England found it hard to break down a determined Kiwi rearguard, but Gary Lineker managed to sweep home the winner three minutes into stoppage time.
Athletic Park in Wellington hosted the second match and again Graham Taylor’s England had to fight hard for the victory. The wind was so strong that the New Zealand ‘keeper’s first goal-kick blew back to the edge of his own box.
England were positive from the start and Stuart Pearce lashed home the first goal on 12 minutes after Brian Deane had sold the defence a dummy from John Salako’s cross.
Five minutes into the second half David Hirst, a substitute for Deane, controlled Gary Charles’ cross to shoot under Schofield for 2-0.
There is little likelihood that the two could meet again in South Africa but both will be hoping to prolong their tournaments for as long as possible.