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Kiwis cheer World Cup draw

sports Updated: Jun 21, 2010 16:05 IST

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key joined a chorus of Kiwi celebration on Monday as the lowly-ranked national football team pulled off a shock 1-1 World Cup draw with four-time champions Italy.

Key, who attended the match with his 10-year-old son, lauded New Zealand's brave performance.

"The All Whites showed all the courage and character we know they possess to score what is New Zealand's best result yet in world football," Key said in a statement.

"In drawing with one of the world's top teams, the All Whites have surprised everybody and stunned the footballing world. The team can take great pride in their result."

Key said he had personally congratulated coach Ricki Herbert, captain Ryan Nelsen and the team.

"I am sure all New Zealanders will join with me in saying how proud we are of the All Whites. I wish the team all the best for their next game against Paraguay on Friday."

The match screened in New Zealand around 3 am on Monday morning, leaving many Kiwi workers bleary eyed on the first day of a new working week. New Zealanders watched the match in bars or at home as a mid-winter chill discouraged large outdoor gatherings.

New Zealand media, who had hailed their team's 1-1 draw with Slovakia in its opening match as New Zealand's greatest football achievement, repeated that claim on Monday under headlines which described the result as stunning and heroic.

New Zealand Herald correspondent Michael Brown called the draw "mind-blowing".

"Little, old New Zealand with just 25 professional footballers - Italy has 3541. A country, which had played just four World Cup, matches before this morning drew with one, which has won four World Cup titles. Crazy.

"If the Slovakia result was incredible, this is truly mind-blowing and they still have a genuine chance of progressing to the second round although Paraguay looked slick in their 2-0 defeat of Slovakia.

"That would be one of the biggest surprises in World Cup history, much like the US beating England in 1950."

The Fairfax media group website ran a match report under the headline "That Was Ka Rawe", a Maori word which translates as awesome.