Sunday, June 20, 2010 (All times Eastern)
Italy (0-0-1) vs. New Zealand (0-0-1), 10 a.m.
Nelspruit, South Africa (Sports Network) - Both Italy and New Zealand enter Sunday's Group F FIFA World Cup contest at Mbombela Stadium on the heels of draws in their opening matches, but their emotions are quite different.
The Italians entered the World Cup as heavy favorites to win the group, but after their 1-1 draw with Paraguay, superiority is anything but assured, while New Zealand was thrilled to get a point in a 1-1 draw with Slovakia.
Paraguay took the lead after a first-half goal from Antolin Alcaraz against Italy, but it was the only shot on goal of the match for the South American side. Daniele De Rossi was able to equalize in the second half for the Italians to help them salvage a point, but there was some frustration from manager Marcello Lippi after the match.
"I'm happy because we played as a team, but it's a shame not to have won because we deserved to. By the end our opponents had handed us control and they didn't create any danger in the second period, we didn't even let them have a single shot on goal," Lippi said.
Making matters worse for Italy is the fact that goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon suffered a back injury and had to be taken off at halftime, and he will miss at least Sunday's match if not the rest of the tournament. Buffon will have surgery after the tournament.
Federico Marchetti will take Buffon's place in goal for the Azzurri, who must beat New Zealand to restore some order to the group.
The Kiwis will be happy to have claimed a point against Slovakia in their opening game, giving the team its first-ever World Cup point after Winston Reid scored three minutes into stoppage time in a 1-1 draw.
"It's terrific. Over the last five years, I've never stopped believing in this team," said New Zealand manager Ricki Herbert. "Playing at a World Cup was a dream come true, but this is even better. We came to South Africa with the intention of making a difference, and we certainly did that against a highly- rated team."
Slovakia is not as highly-rated a team as Italy, so it will take a big effort for the Kiwis to get anything from this match, but they have already proven capable of making a difference.
06/19 13:40:18 ET