New Zealand gave clear-favorites Italy a taste of their own medicine, in a 1-1 draw. The minnows put up a peerless defensive display to deny the defending World Champions a win.
For the first time since 1998, Italy started a World Cup match without Gianluigi Buffon in goal; Marchetti filling in for the experienced custodian. Italy started out with a 4-4-2 formation with Iaquinta supporting Gilardino. New Zealand started with a 4-5-1 formation and the first chance of the game came in the 2nd minute when Italy got a corner, which was safely dealt with.
New Zealand showed good intent in moving forward and were rewarded with a free kick in the 4th minute. On the 7th minute the Azzuri fans were silenced as Smeltz stole behind the defence to slot in a shock opener for the minnows. A freekick from the left wing was nudged on by a New Zealand player, and Cannavaro failed to clear the ball as it hit him and fell kindly for the Kiwi number 9.
Smeltz had scored 5 goals in 8 qualifers for his team and now he had his first World Cup goal. The four time and defending World Champions were sparked into life after going behind as they showed more purpose in the final third. New Zealand were playing a very physical game and tried to put bodies in and around the box to stifle the Italian attackers. Rory Fallon got the first yellow card of the game with a challenge on Cannavaro. On the 16th minute Chiellini found himself in a good position after an Italian corner, but flashed his shot well wide.
Gianluca Zambrotta tried to recreate his goal against Ukraine in 2006 World Cup, but his long ranger flew over the cross piece. Montlivo tried to find Gilardino making a run into the box, but his lob was just too strong. The very next minute, the Fiorentina playmaker took a wonderful shot from the edge of the box, with the Kiwi goalkeeper Panton stranded, the ball hit the post and agonisingly bounced away. Italy’s pressured the New Zealand defense persistently but were not sharp enough inside the box. Another buildup saw Iaquinta almost find De Rossi with a neat one-two. The Italian pressure finally paid off in the 28th minute when Daniel De Rossi earned a penalty. Centre-back Smith was the main culprit as he as booked for tugging de Rossi’s shirt.
Iaquinta equalises for Azzuris
Iaquinta didn’t make a mistake from the spot as he sent the ‘keeper ther wrong way to score his second World Cup goal. That goal slowed down the pace of the game as Italy focused on patient buildup and keeping possession. Criscito flashed a shot well over the goal on 31st minute. New Zeland were getting pegged back further and further, as they showed lesser inclination to push forward. It shoqed in the statistics then as Italy had a ball possession of 59%. Just before the half time a strong long ranger from De Rossi was parried away by the New Zealand ‘keeper. The first half ended with the scoreline reading 1-1.
Marcello Lippi rung in the changes in the 2nd half with di Natale replacing Gilardino and Camoranesi replacing Pepe. Second half began in the same way with Italy pushing up for the goal. A shot from a narrow angle from di Natale was saved by Mark Paston. Iaquinta wasted a half chance in the hour mark. Desperate for a goal Lippi brought Pazzini on for Marchisio and switched to a 4-3-3. New Zealand created a chance of their own as a Vicelich shot went wide of the post.
The New Zealand captain Ryan Nelsen rose to the occassion on the 79th minute when he cleared a dangerous Di Natale shot. Chiellini wasted a chance for a good header on the 82nd minute as New Zealand defence looked resolute and solid. The 18 year old Chris Wood almost grabbed an astonishing second goal for New Zealand. He powered past Cannavaro, a man twice his age and his well taken shot beat Marchetti but ultimately just went wide. Six minutes later it was the All Whites ‘keeper who came to his side’s rescue as he pulled off a brilliant save to deny a Camoranesi long range strike. In the dying minutes of the match Zambrotta skipped past his man but his shot was blocked by Ryan Nelsen.
New Zealand, ranked 73rd in the world and playing only its second World Cup pulled of a memorable result against the defending champions. For the Italians, the result only added insult to injury as they were undone by a side that handed them – the pastmasters of the art of keeping the opponents at bay – a lesson in defensive techniques. The Italians are still in with a chance of reaching the second round. Italy had an amazing 15 to nil corners stats in their favor, but that was probably was one of the very few positives they could draw from this encounter.
TheHardTackle Player Of The Match:
New Zealand defence and Mark Paston
It will be unfair to pick a single New Zealand player as the whole defence played admirably. Paston pulled off numerous brilliant saves and was assuringly calm during the course of the match. Ryan Nelsen led from the front and marvellously organized the defence.Other than condeeding the penalty Tommy Smith was solid. Ivan Vicelich and Winston Reid ensured that New Zealand held their defensive shape well.
TheHardTackle Referee Report Card:
Carlos Batres – A: The Guatemalan referee kept good control over the game yet never allowed the pace of the game to be lost.
Italy 1-1 New Zealand
Mbombela Stadium (Nelspruit)
Italy lineup: Federico Marchetti, Giorgio Chiellini, Fabio Cannavaro (c), Domenico Criscito,Gianluca Zambrotta, Riccardo Montolivo, Daniele De Rossi, Alberto Gilardino (Antonio Di Natale ‘45), Claudio Marchisio(Pazzini ’61) ,Vincenzo Iaquinta, Simone Pepe (Mauro Camoranesi ’45),
Sent off: None
Scorers: Vincenzo Iaquinta
New Zealand lineup: Mark Paston, Tony Lochhead, Winston Reid, Ivan Vicelich(Jeremy John Christie ’81), Ryan Nelsen, Simon Elliott, Shane Smeltz, Chris Killen(Andy Barron ’90), Leo Bertos, Rory Fallon(Christopher Wood ’63), Tommy Smith.
Caution: Fallon, Smith, Nelsen
Sent off: None