Soccer: New Zealand reaches Word Cup for first time since '82
By STEVE McMORRAN
AP Sports Writer
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand reached the World Cup for the first time since 1982, beating Bahrain 1-0 Saturday night behind Rory Fallon's goal in the 44th minute.
The teams had played a 0-0 tie at Manama on Oct. 10 in the first leg of the home-and-home, total-goals playoff between the Oceania champion and the fifth-place team in Asian qualifying.
New Zealand went 0-3 at the 1982 World Cup in Spain, getting outscored 12-2 by Scotland, the Soviet Union and Brazil.
Fallon, who played for an England youth national team, headed Leo Bertos' corner kick past goalkeeper Sayed Jafaar, who had saved his header moments earlier.
"I was just praying that wasn't my last chance," Fallon said. "Then Leon put in a great ball, and with those I don't miss."
Bahrain, which has never appeared in the World Cup, lost a playoff to Trinidad and Tobago four years ago. It could have tied the aggregate score in the 50th minute — and moved ahead on away goals — but Sayed Adnan took a weak penalty kick that easily was saved by goalkeeper Mark Paston, who fell on the ball. It came after Tony Lochhead brought down Abdulla Omar in the penalty area
"I basically just guessed which way he'd go, and the ball ended up in my hands," Paston said. "It's a bit surreal really."
New Zealand qualified in gale force winds and bitter cold before a crowd of 35,000, the largest ever for a soccer match in the nation. Kiwis coach Ricki Herbert was a defender on New Zealand's 1982 World Cup team.
"I'm speechless," Herbert said. "This group of players has given everything to achieve this dream, everything over the last four years. It's incredible. We're back. We're there. South Africa."