Jones feels the joy of New Zealand’s World Cup tie

Neil Jones was probably the only guy in the bar wearing a New Zealand soccer jersey Tuesday morning.

He didn’t buy it for the 2010 World Cup. He earned it as player for the national team during the qualifying stages for the 2006 tournament.

So imagine his joy when the All Whites scored in the final seconds of extra time to gain a dramatic and historic 1-1 tie against Slovakia in the Group F match in Rustenburg, South Africa early Tuesday morning.

The former UCSB star player and assistant coach had played with most of the guys on the team, so he was incredibly excited after watching Winston Reid head in Shane Smeltz’s cross in the waning seconds of extra time to knot the score and give New Zealand its first-ever points in a World Cup.

Jones, who along with current New Zealand left fullback Tony Lochhead came to play at UCSB back in 2001 and helped the Gauchos reach their first NCAA College Cup in 2004, is now an assistant coach with the Northwestern men’s soccer team. He is featured in an ESPNChicago.com article about New Zealand’s dramatic result.

Jones was watching the match with Northwestern head coach Tim Lenahan at The Globe Pub in Chicago’s North Center neighborhood. Trailing 1-0 since the 50th minute, it didn’t look good for the All Whites after they missed a great scoring chance generated by a Lochhead cross to Smeltz in 88th minute. But when Reid delivered in the 93rd minute, Jones leaped out of his seat, raised his arms and screamed.

“At that point, I didn’t think there was a chance,” Jones told reporter Scott Powers of ESPNChicago. “I thought when Smeltzy missed the header off Tony’s cross that was the only chance we were going to have. I thought that was it. But Smeltzy redeemed himself with a fantastic ball — that was a world-class cross into Winston — and what a fantastic header off the bottom of the post.”

Jones noted that the dramatic finish brought out the spirit of nationalism in New Zealand.

“The nation is going crazy right now. For us, a small country of only four million people to pick up a great result like that in the World Cup is unbelievable. It’s a week night, school night for us, but I’m sure there will be a couple people calling into their bosses tomorrow saying they have a slight hangover. To score basically on the last kick of the game is pretty crazy.”

The fact he played with several of the guys on the team made the accomplishment extra special for Jones. Besides Lochhead, whom he played with at UCSB, he said he used to train almost daily with starting forward Rory Fallon as teenagers

“It’s kind of different for me since I played with a lot of these guys,” Jones said to ESPNChicago. “Aside from being a New Zealand person and a fan of the game and the country, I know these guys personally.

“I obviously played for the national team before, and New Zealand’s my home, and I’ve represented my country playing soccer. Am I part of this win? No, but I feel a part of this because I know a lot of these guys.”

Jones decided to end his international playing career in 2005. He became an assistant with the UCSB men’s team in 2006, the year the Gauchos won the national championship.  He was hired by Northwestern in May.

Jones said he hopes his New Zealand background can now help Northwestern’s program.

“When you’re growing up in New Zealand, it’s a blue-collar country,” Jones said. “Everyone works very hard and has a good work ethic. That was drilled into me as a kid. That’s something I hopefully can bring to Northwestern.”

Lenahan, whose Wildcats’ program has been to five NCAA tournaments in the last six seasons, told ESPNChicago that he was glad to share Tuesday’s game with his new assistant.

“Neil talked about it,” Lenahan said. “I said, ‘We’ll go down even if you didn’t support our team [the U.S.] on Saturday. We’ll come down, wear the colors and support the team.’ I’m sure with the England game behind us, he’ll root for the American team. He better.”

Comments

  1. Kjhkdjsfhkdsjh says

    o.u.r)) w.e.b.s.i.t.e :[w w w . d e a r s a l e s . c o m]

    (b..r..a..n..d.)s.h.o.e.s.(3 4 u.s.d),,

    ==J. a .m .e )) s h o e s

    < j o r d a n> (1-24) s h o e s

    < j o r d a n> 2010 s h o e s

    c.l.o.t.h.i.n.g,,j.e.a.n,,h.a.n.d.b.a.g(3 5 u.s.d),,

    ==c .o. a .c .h )) h a n d b a g

    (f.r.e.e)s.h.i.p.p.i.n.g

    [w w w . d e a r s a l e s . c o m]
    [w w w . d e a r s a l e s . c o m]

  2. Kjhkdjsfhkdsjh says

    o.u.r)) w.e.b.s.i.t.e :[w w w . d e a r s a l e s . c o m]

    (b..r..a..n..d.)s.h.o.e.s.(3 4 u.s.d),,

    ==J. a .m .e )) s h o e s

    < j o r d a n> (1-24) s h o e s

    < j o r d a n> 2010 s h o e s

    c.l.o.t.h.i.n.g,,j.e.a.n,,h.a.n.d.b.a.g(3 5 u.s.d),,

    ==c .o. a .c .h )) h a n d b a g

    (f.r.e.e)s.h.i.p.p.i.n.g

    [w w w . d e a r s a l e s . c o m]
    [w w w . d e a r s a l e s . c o m]

Speak Your Mind

*