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World Cup Preview from The Sports Network

Thursday, June 24, 2010 (All times Eastern)

Paraguay (1-0-1) vs. New Zealand (0-0-2), 10 a.m.

Polokwane, South Africa (Sports Network) - Group F was widely considered to be the weakest group at this summer's FIFA World Cup, and while the action on the field has not always been scintillating, it has been unpredictable.

Italy was widely tipped to win the group, while Paraguay and Slovakia were expected to battle it out for second, leaving New Zealand buried at the bottom.

However, the Kiwis have been the surprise story of the tournament, and they have the opportunity to make their way into the next round, something that was unthinkable prior to the start of the competition.

After earning draws in their first two games, including a stunning 1-1 result against Italy, New Zealand needs a win over Paraguay at Peter Mokaba Stadium on Thursday and an Italy loss or draw with Slovakia to advance, while a draw with the South American side could also be enough if the Italy result is right.

A draw in the opener against Slovakia was big because it was New Zealand's first point at a World Cup, but the Italy result was something entirely different.

"It perhaps wasn't the game of the century in terms of spectacle, but we showed an enormous amount of hunger and determination," New Zealand captain Ryan Nelsen said following his team's draw with Italy. "It leaves me speechless when I think about what we've accomplished thanks to everyone's dedication to the team as a whole. We've given ourselves a chance of reaching the next round and that's an exciting challenge. All we can do now is give everything to seize that chance in the last match."

It might take everything for New Zealand to get a good result because Paraguay is coming off of a 2-0 win over Slovakia and will be trying to lock down the top spot in the group.

Many of the players on the Paraguay team felt that this was the best side the country has ever put together, and if it can move on to the next round with a chance at reaching the quarterfinals, it would be hard to argue.

Defender Paulo Da Silva assisted on the team's second goal against Slovakia, and he knows that his team is in an enviable position.

"We've taken a very big step and we've almost achieved our major objective," Da Silva said following the Slovakia match. "Against New Zealand we need to go in with the same attitude if we want to win.

"Qualification is in our hands now."

06/23 13:03:52 ET

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