Slovakia's dream debut turns to nightmare

RUSTENBURG - The hung heads, long faces and talk of "tragedy" did not point to a team who had just scored their first ever World Cup point.

That was because Slovakia, appearing at the tournament for the first time as an independent country, had learnt a harsh footballing lesson when they let New Zealand snatch an equaliser in the last minute of added time in Tuesday's Group F match.

Both teams picked up their first ever point thanks to the 1-1 draw but the contrast in emotions was stark - New Zealand tore off their shirts as if they were celebrating a win, while the Slovaks slunk away as if in defeat.

"Of course this is a small sporting tragedy for us," coach Vladimir Weiss told a news conference.

"We were the better team, it is a pity we didn't use the two good opportunities we had. Unfortunately there is also added time."

Slovakia goalscorer Robert Vittek, whose header put the central Europeans ahead in the 50th minute, had his joy at scoring his country's first World Cup goal severely dampened.

"Conceding a goal in the 93rd minute is just a nightmare, I think this should not happen at this level," he said after picking up his man-of-the-match award.

"It is really a pity, we could have finished with three points and I could have been in a better mood. At the end I felt like we had lost the match."

A win would have propelled Slovakia to the top of Group F after Paraguay surprised Italy to draw 1-1. Instead, all four teams have a point, which would appear to put the advantage firmly with the world champions and South Americans.

"We could have played better than we played," defender Marek Cech told reporters.

"We had already thought we would win this game but in the end it was a big disappointment for us."

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