Head coach Darren Bazeley praised his team for their “grit and determination” in their 2-2 draw with Uzbekistan at the FIFA U-20 Men’s World Cup in Argentina.
Goals by Ben Wallace and Jay Herdman gave New Zealand a 2-0 half-time lead but Uzbekistan clawed their way back to share the points and keep alive their own hopes of making the tournament’s knockout stages.
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“I know there’s slight disappointment because we were leading in the 90th minute, but the grit and the determination and the effort the boys put into that game is unbelievable.
“They (Uzbekistan) are a very good team and they piled a lot of pressure on us.
“Unfortunately, the more pressure they put on, eventually we did succumb to one attack and that’s disappointing.
“They boys have just put in a really tough game and they’ve come off disappointed. But they didn’t get beat, they secured another point at a World Cup so that’s a really good learning curve.
“You can’t just go out and defend leads. You’ve still got to play.”
Bazeley said the gameplan had been to get into goalscoring positions when Uzbekistan had them under pressure, and “to get into areas where we can take our shots”.
“We wanted to be more attacking; we wanted to have more shots and be more creative, and we scored two great goals.”
He said Herdman’s strike was “a wonderful goal” and already a contender for Goal of the Tournament.
Captain Finn Surman said the game had been “pretty tough”, and his team were frustrated and disappointed with the result.
However, he was looking forward to the chance to play home nation Argentina in front of a huge crowd on Saturday.