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 New Zealand reach the World Cup finals

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PostSubject: New Zealand reach the World Cup finals   Sat Nov 14, 2009 5:16 pm

New Zealand have reached the World Cup finals for the second time in their history with victory over Bahrain in their qualifying play-off second leg.

Striker Rory Fallon scored the decisive goal at the Westpac Stadium in the final minute of the first half with a header from a Leo Bertos corner.

All Whites goalkeeper Mark Paston also saved a 51st-minute penalty from Bahrain's Sayed Adnan.

The last time New Zealand reached the finals was in Spain in 1982.

With the sides drawing the opening match 0-0, Bahrain knew that a score draw would ensure their progress.

They attacked from the start but after weathering the opening onslaught, New Zealand fought their way into the game.

Leo Bertos and Celtic's Chris Killen both hit the woodwork while a Fallon header was brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Sayed Jafaar.

Fallon did strike just before the break but the visitors were handed a route back into the tie when Tony Lochhead fouled Abdulla Omar in the box although Paston stopped Adnan's weak effort.

New Zealand's Shane Smeltz had an opportunity to kill the game off in the 70th minute when he was put through by Bertos, but his deft flick went just wide.

"This group of players has given everything to achieve this dream, everything over the last four years," said New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert, who was a member of the defensive line that played in Spain.

"It's incredible. We're back. We're there."

New Zealand skipper Ryan Nelsen, who plays for Blackburn, paid tribute to the 35,100 fans in Wellington - a record for a football match in the country.

"The crowd was incredible and I don't know if we could have won it without them," he said.

"They were our 12th man today and they got us home. I've played in some incredible atmospheres but this is right up there."

Bahrain also came close to securing a place at the last World Cup but lost out to Trinidad and Tobago at the same stage.
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