POLOKWANE, South Africa — Paraguay was held to an uneventful 0-0 draw by New Zealand on Thursday but still won its World Cup group and moved into the round of 16.
Neither team created much in the way of scoring chances, despite displaying more urgency in the final minutes than in a turgid first half at Peter Mokaba Stadium.
Paraguay finished with five points in Group F. Slovakia, which upset defending champion Italy on Thursday, also advanced with four points. New Zealand finished third in the group with three points off as many draws, while the Italians finished last.
Probably the best chance of the match came when Paraguay substitute Edgar Benitez struck a low shot that was saved by New Zealand goalkeeper Mark Paston in the 76th minute. The other notable chance came 12 minutes earlier, when Cristian Riveros headed straight at Paston from a short corner.
The Paraguayans – who also reached the second round at the World Cup in 1986, 1998 and 2002 – continued South America's dominance of the tournament.
The continent's teams have 10 wins, no losses and three draws. Four of the five South American squads have qualified for the next round and the fifth, Chile, can do so Friday night.
A few of the Paraguayan players pulled their socks off at the end of the match and threw them into the midfield section of the stands where their fans stood and cheered.
"It was a very hard match, but in the end it was the most important thing to qualify," Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino said. "We had many problems in our attack today, to get through their defense. But the result is in our favor."
Having lost all three matches back in 1982 – in its only other World Cup appearance – New Zealand now heads home unbeaten, and winless, at this tournament after earlier 1-1 draws with Slovakia and Italy, a team ranked 73 places above the Kiwis.
New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert, who played on that '82 team, made no apologies for sticking to a conservative gameplan against Paraguay and hoping for a couple of good scoring chances.
"We'll never go through another World Cup unbeaten," he said.