June 20, 2010
NELSPRUIT, SOUTH AFRICA – New Zealand will head into the final group match against Paraguay with their chances of securing a place in the second round of the FIFA World Cup very much alive after securing a “nation-stopping” 1-1 draw with reigning World Champions Italy in Nelspruit’s Mbombela Satdium on Monday morning (NZT).
It took just seven minutes for the 78th ranked All Whites to shock the four-time winners as Shane Smeltz got on the end of Simon Elliott free-kick via helpful touches from both Winston Reid and Italian captain Fabio Cannavaro before slotting the ball past Federico Marchetti.
But Italy, who targeted Rory Fallon and the Guatemalan referee throughout the match with a campaign of histrionics, drew level in the 29th minute when Daniele De Rossi took a tumble in the area to earn a penalty which Vicenzo Iaquinta gladly converted.
New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert hailed the result as easily the finest result for football in New Zealand and had a word for those who had written off the All Whites chances.
"This is the World Cup and anything's possible," Herbert said.
"There've been some interesting results but I don't think you've seen one as big as that one. I don't think anybody would have remotely given us a chance tonight.
"We're doing okay for a team that's supposedly got some amateurs in it. We were playing the four-time world champions and a lot of people thought we shouldn't have been here and maybe not be part of the World Cup because the way we qualified was easy.
"Well, you can write your own stories now - we've just done it again.”
The All Whites and Italy, both on two points, lie behind Paraguay who beat Slovakia 2-0 to move to the top of Group F on four points. A win over Paraguay on Friday morning (NZT) would guarantee New Zealand a place in the knockout stages, while a draw may still be good enough depending on what happens between Italy and Slovakia in their final pool match.
Moments after Smeltz’s opener Mark Paston was called on for the first of a string of impressive saves, batting away a Riccardo Montolivo free-kick as it sailed into dangerous territory, while the Fiorintina midfielder was denied by the woodwork shortly before the Italians levelled.
Ivan Vicelich blasted a long-range effort just wide in the 63rd minute and Paston again proved Motolivo’s nemesis with a stunning save to keep out a goal-bound 30 yard strike minutes later.
New Zealand’s defence stood firm in the face of building pressure from the Azzurri and with seven minutes remaining substitute Chris Wood turned Cannavaro on the edge of the area but saw his shot go narrowly wide.
FIFA World Cup: Group F
Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
New Zealand 1 (Shane Smeltz 7) Italy 1 (Vicenzo Iaquinta 29-pen)
New Zealand: 1-Mark PASTON (GK), 3-Tony LOCHHEAD, 4-Winston REID, 5-Ivan VICELEICH (21-Jeremy CHRISTIE 81), 6-Ryan NELSEN (captain), 7 Simon ELLIOTT, 9-Shane SMELTZ, 10-Chris KILLEN (13-Andy BARRON 90+3), 11-Leo BERTOS, 14-Rory FALLON (20-Chris WOOD 63), 19-Tommy SMITH.
Substitutes not used: 2-Ben SIGMUND, 8-Tim BROWN, 15-Michael MCGLINCHEY, 16-Aaron CLAPHAM, 17-David MULLIGAN, 18-Andrew BOYENS, 22-Jeremy BROCKIE, 23-James BANNATYNE (RGK).
Suspended: 12-Glen MOSS (GK).
Coach: Ricki HERBERT
Cautions: Rory FALLON 14, Tommy SMITH 28, Ryan NELSEN 87
Italy: 12-Federico MARCHETTI (GK), 3-Domenico CRISCITO, 4-Giorgio CHIELLINI, 5-Fabio CANNAVARO (captain), 6-Daniele DE ROSSI, 7-Simone PEPE (16-Mauro CAMORANESI 46), 9-Vincenzo IAQUINTA, 11-Alberto GILARDINO (10-Antonio DI NATALE 46), 15-Claudio MARCHISIO (20-Giampaolo PAZZINI 61), 19-Gianluca ZAMBROTTA, 22-Riccardo MONTOLIVO.
Substitutes not used: 2-Christian MAGGIO, 8-Gennaro GATTUSO, 13-Salvatore BOCCHETTI, 14-Morgan DE SANCTIS (RGK), 17-Angelo PALOMBO, 18-Fabio QUAGLIARELLA, 21-Andrea PIRLO, 23-Leonardo BONUCCI.
Coach: Marcello LIPPI