FIFA World Cup 2010: Fear The Kiwis...Who Knew?

Jack LondonCorrespondent IJune 21, 2010

NELSPRUIT, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 20: Winston Reid of New Zealand gestures during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group F match between Italy and New Zealand at the Mbombela Stadium on June 20, 2010 in Nelspruit, South Africa.  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
David Cannon/Getty Images

You've heard all the facts about New Zealand football. 

The fact that it's not the most popular sport in the country. 

The fact that really only one player (Ryan Nelsen) plays in a top league. 

The fact that one of their players isn't even a full-time football player. 

The odds were against them, of that I don't need to tell you. 

Nobody cared about this game. I guarantee you that unless you're a soccer fanatic like me, you weren't going to watch this game. 

The Italians just came off an "embarrassing" (by their own standards) tie with Paraguay. 

Everything was setting up for this game to be a blowout, much like today's earlier match of Portugal and North Korea. 

Instead, history was made. 

Was the goal a bit lucky?

Perhaps. Smeltz still had to finish it, though. 

Was the defense lucky? 

Perhaps. One shot in particular hit the woodwork, and a few more could've easily bounced in. 

But the Kiwis held strong didn't they? 

Speaking of facts, how's this one for you: The Kiwis were without two key starters the first two games, midfielder Tim Brown and goalkeeper Glen Moss. 

And yet here stand the Kiwis. Unscathed. 

If this doesn't inspire you, I don't know what will. 

By all rights, New Zealand should have been sent home, beaten by scorelines such as 3 or 4 to 0. 

But New Zealand never gave up. 

And now, they could go to the next round. 

I'm sure nobody has to tell Paraguay that New Zealand is no easy beat, but can you imagine if somehow, Slovakia tied Italy? And New Zealand tied Paraguay?

Or even crazier...what if the Kiwis win? They would be through to the next round. 

Is it crazy to imagine? Yes. But so was the thought of them even tying the defending champs. 

It won't be easy. Paraguay has a bit more pace than Italy and Slovakia. Tommy Smith and Winston Reid will be tested. 

But give credit to Coach Ricky Herbert. Not many teams that run what is essentially a 3-4-3 are this organized. 

And it's rare that teams of New Zealand's caliber give other teams fits. 

But the Kiwis have nothing to lose. 

Their giving their all out on the pitch. 

I may only get a few reads on this article. It's cliche, really. Everyone knew that history was made. 

But I had to write it. I've followed the New Zealand football teams off and on for a few years now, waiting for the day they'd get to World Cup. 

I could only wish and hope for the start they've gotten. 

I personally invite you to watch their game against Paraguay. 

Maybe it's going to be a blowout. 

Or maybe you'll miss history. 

Well done New Zealand. 

Well done.