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A week after a stunning 1-0 win over Serbia that had their fans dancing in the aisles, New Zealand were dealt a pre-World Cup reality check with a 3-1 friendly defeat to Slovenia.

Two ripping free kicks from Slovenian star Milivoje Novakovic – they really were absolute jaffers – and a third goal from a stuff-up by Kiwi keeper Mark Paston saw Slovenia maintain their imposing home record.

Rory Fallon scored New Zealand’s only goal in the 20th minute but they created several other clear chances to at least take some positives out of the loss.

They fell behind in just the seventh minute when Nelsen conceded a tiggy-touchwood free kick as he challenged in the air just outside the penalty area. Novakovic curled a pinpoint effort over the New Zealand wall and Paston had no chance.

After a sluggish opening stanza, New Zealand fought back as Chris Wood missed two clear chances created by Simon Elliott and Leo Bertos. They were finally rewarded on the 20-minute mark in a near carbon copy of their winning goal against Serbia.

Jeremy Christie sent a long ball in, Wood nodded down and Fallon slammed a left-foot volley to keeper Samir Handanovic's left.

There was major controversy as Slovenia reclaimed the lead through a refereeing blunder which left the New Zealanders fuming.

Novakovic dived like a dying swan as defender Winston Reid contested the ball and clearly made no contact, but the referee was convinced and Reid was yellow carded to add further pain. Novakovic went low and to the right of the wall with his free kick and Paston was again left with no chance, like an ugly girl at a dance.

The killer blow came just a minute before half-time when Paston blundered a regulation save and Andraz Kirm tapped in from close range.

New Zealand competed strongly in the second half but couldn't crack the Slovenians.

While Slovenia are no easybeats, they're not world-beaters either and the Kiwis will need to convert their chances if they are to make a winning start to the World Cup when they face Slovaki in Rustenberg on June 15.


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