New Zealand vs Slovakia: World Cup newbies showdown

New Zealand v Slovakia
Group F, 2010 World Cup
Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg
Sunday, 13 June 2010
Kickoff: 11:30 GMT, 13:30 Local

The All Whites may have waited 28 years for this match, but the Slovakians have waited an eternity. Having been forced to integrate with the Czechoslovakian team after the second world war, they only gained footballing independence in 1994, and have been unable to qualify for the World Cup since. That is until now.

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Their lack of football on the world’s biggest stage means they are somewhat of an unknown quantity, with many tipping them to struggle over the next few weeks (some bookmakers putting them at 400/1 to win the cup). But having qualified at the expense of World Cup regulars Poland they are not to be underestimated, and they seem quietly confident that they can have a sucessful group phase. Slovakian playmaker Marek Hamšik’s recently commented on his team’s chances:

“Our main goal is to get through the group stage. We want to reach the second round. Italy are obviously the big favourites to win the group, but the game against Paraguay will be close and we reckon we can beat New Zealand too.”

Their Coach Vladimir Weiss has no real injury worries ahead of Tuesday’s game. Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel is expected to be fully fit after rolling his ankle against Cameroon last week, and while there are doubts surrounding strikers Robert Vitteck and Filip Hološko’s fitness, they are both expected to feature in the squad (with Holosko starting on the bench).

Meanwhile, All Whites Coach Ricki Herbert has no fresh concerns. With combative midfielder Tim Brown giving the squad a welcome boost by returning to training last week (a modern miracle considering he fractured his shoulder against the Socceroo’s 3 weeks ago), he is still expected to be rested for the Slovakian game at least.

There are rumours however, that Herbert is considering a slight change of tactics for their opener on Tuesday. After impressing during his last outing against Chile, old boy Ivan Vicelich is expected to be included in the squad, albeit in an unfamiliar role to the All White faithful. Vicelich is expected to be deployed just in front of the 3 man defence as a holding midfielder – A role he became familiar with whilst playing in the Netherlands, although it will be a first in an All White’s strip. 

With new defenders Winston Reid and Tommy Smith both being 21, Vicelich will bring some much needed experience to the back line, relieving some of the pressure on All Whites favourite Ryan Nelsen, as well as allowing Reid to occasionally press forward with the speed and agility he was blessed with.

Both teams will see this match as their best chance to get some points on the board, and New Zealand should be confident of a result against the first timers. But whether Herbert decides to throw away the preparation book remains to be seen. Trying out a new formation AFTER your warm up matches have finished is always goin to be a gamble, yet Vicelich could prove to be the linch pin Herbert has been looking for. With a cool head and bundles of experience, Vicelich can shore up the defence when they are under pressure, whilst plugging the midfield gap when New Zealand are on the break.

Either way, expect a passionate encounter from these two sets of history boys, as they will both be eager to register their first ever point at a World Cup finals.

One To Watch:

Vladimir Weiss Senior came under fire when he picked his own son to play in the national team. However, after seeing him play throughout their qualification, the Slovakians were more disappointed that he hadn’t been picked sooner. 20yr old Vladimir Weiss Junior currently plies his trade in the English Premiership. He spent last season on loan at Bolton Wanderers where he failed to secure a regular first team place, although his contributions from the bench arguably saved the Wanderers from top flight relegation.

At international level, Weiss has only 9 caps to his name, with no goals to speak of, yet. But a firm favourite back home, the scintillating right winger supplied the two assists which helped them overcome Northern Ireland during qualification, and is expected to shine at this year’s tournament – even if his national side are not.

Likely teams:
New Zealand (3-4-3):Mark Paston, Winston Reid, Ryan Nelsen, Tommy Smith, Ivan Vicelich, Simon Elliott, Leo Bertos, Tony Lochhead, Shane Smeltz, Rory Fallon, Chris Killen.

Slovakia (4-4-2):Jan Mucha, Peter Pekarik, Martin Skrtel, Jan Durica, Marek Cech, Vladimir Weiss,  Zdeno Strba, Marek Hamsik, Miroslav Stoch, Robert Vittek, Stanislav Sestak.

Watch New Zealand vs Slovakia Live Online

You can watch New Zealand take on Slovakia live online as well as all other World Cup matches, plus hundreds of football games from around the world. Read our live World Cup football page for more details.

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