Hosts draw 25,000 crowd despite cold NZ weather
AUCKLAND, New Zealand: Fans and players ignored the cold winter
conditions as hosts New Zealand kicked off the 2015 FIFA U-20 World
Cup by drawing 0-0 with Ukraine in front of a packed North Harbour
Stadium on Saturday.
The lack of goals in this Auckland encounter wasn’t for the want of
chances but a lack of composure too often proved the undoing of both
The Junior All Whites certainly couldn’t have asked for any greater
backing, with a sell-out crowd of 25,000 cramming in to set a new
record attendance for a FIFA match in New Zealand.
There was precious little for the Kiwi fans to cheer in the first half
though as Ukraine dominated, creating the better of what few chances
Artem Biesiedin was among the Europeans’ danger men and he twice came
close, first forcing Oli Sail into a smart save before leading a
speedy breakaway that ended with a disappointingly wayward shot.
New Zealand did have one, glorious opportunity of their own though,
when Matthew Ridenton headed over from close range after Sam
Brotherton had risen highest to meet a Kiwi corner.
The game became more open in the second period and the hosts should
have taken the lead inside a couple of minutes.
Clayton Lewis was the guilty party on this occasion, leaning back at
the crucial moment to shoot over after breaking through on to an
incisive pass from Alex Rufer.
Ukraine were wasteful too, with both Eduard Sobol and Mykyta Tatarkov
failing to even test Sail after being teed up in excellent positions.
And they had their keeper, Bohdan Sarnavskyi, to thank for emerging
with a point after he dived to make a crucial save from Noah
Billingsley’s late sliding effort.
The Kiwis, who finished strongly, also missed a glorious late
opportunity when Sam Brotherton headed inexplicably wide from inside
the six-yard box.
New Zealand will now take on USA, again in Auckland, in their second
match, while Ukraine go up against tournament debutants Myanmar.