Paraguay through to knockout stage as Group F toppers | sports | Hindustan Times
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Paraguay through to knockout stage as Group F toppers

Paraguay drew 0-0 with New Zealand on Thursday but reached the last-16 of the World Cup as Group F winners. The South Americans had the better opportunities to win the game but with New Zealand goalkeeper Mark Paston saving well from Cristian Riveros in the best of the South Americans' chances, the game ended goalless.

sports Updated: Jun 24, 2010 23:12 IST

Paraguay drew 0-0 with New Zealand on Thursday but reached the last-16 of the World Cup as Group F winners.

The South Americans had the better opportunities to win the game but with New Zealand goalkeeper Mark Paston saving well from Cristian Riveros in the best of the South Americans' chances, the game ended goalless.

New Zealand go home unbeaten, having finished above defending champions Italy, while Paraguay go on to play the runners-up of Group E in Pretoria on Tuesday.

Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino brought Denis Caniza into the defence and the captain became the first player to represent the nation at four World Cups. Defender Julio Cesar Caceres and striker Oscar Cardozo also came in.

In their last four matches in the World Cup, Paraguay have become the late-goal specialists scoring at least once in the last six minutes of games.

But having performed so well in their opening two games they needed just a draw to qualify against group outsiders New Zealand. Rikki Herbert's team was unchanged from the one that held defending champions Italy to a 1-1 draw Sunday.

Paraguay made a predictably conservative start although not everyone was conserving their energy for a potential last-16 match.

Victor Caceres ran his studs down the back of New Zealand striker Rory Fallon's ankle and Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura booked him, ruling him out of Paraguay's next game.

On 29 minutes Paraguay had their first real chance when captain Caniza ran on to a Roque Santa Cruz pass but failed to get his shot on target.

News reached Paraguay fans in the Peter Mokaba Stadium that Italy had gone behind against Slovakia, thus making a draw enough for the South Americans to top the group.

Buoyed by the news from Johannesburg, Paraguay began peppering the New Zealand goal and Kiwis keeper Paston saw efforts from Caniza and Oscar Cardoza over his bar as well as saving a Nelson Valdez shot from distance.

New Zealand's half-time team talk surely centred on the great chance Italy's defeat was giving them to progress to the last-16. They responded at the restart with their first chance of the game.

Tony Lochhead crossed from the left and the when the ball was cleared to Simon Elliott he hit a right-foot drive that went narrowly wide.

On 58 minutes Cardoza responded with a free-kick from 30 metres that just cleared Paston's cross bar. New Zealand captain Ryan Nelsen was booked ruling him out of the next round should his team score but that was looking increasingly unlikely.

Paraguay resumed controlled and should have taken the lead on 64 minutes when Caniza crossed and Cristian Riveros saw his header saved by Paston.

With three minutes left New Zealand almost got the winner with Chris Wood a whisker from turning in Shane Smeltz' header across the face of the Paraguay goal.

Italy's defeat would have meant New Zealand going through had they won but it was Paraguay who had the better of a poor match and the Kiwis go home with the South Americans topping the group.