World Cup Recap - Italy vs. New Zealand|
(Sunday, June 20th)
Final Score: Italy 1, New Zealand 1
Nelspruit, South Africa (Sports Network) - In what has to go down as the most
surprising result at this year's FIFA World Cup, New Zealand earned a 1-1 draw
with defending champions Italy at Mbombela Stadium on Sunday in Group F play.
Shane Smeltz gave the Kiwis a 1-0 lead inside of seven minutes when he fired
home a loose ball from inside the six-yard box, while a questionable penalty
decision right before the half-hour mark allowed Vincenzo Iaquinta to equalize
from the penalty spot for the Italians.
Italy had more of the possession over the remainder of the match, but New
Zealand held out for the point as Riccardo Montolivo hit the post and Kiwis
goalkeeper Mark Paston made a few key saves.
The result leaves Paraguay on top of Group F with five points after their 2-0
win over Slovakia earlier in the day, while Italy and New Zealand are tied for
second place with two points apiece.
"I think our entire country, which numbers four million inhabitants, came to a
stop to watch our performance," New Zealand manager Ricki Herbert said. "It's
an incredible result for football in New Zealand. It's historic and greater
than anything else we've ever achieved when you consider the standing of our
Italy will try to erase a poor start to its World Cup on Thursday when it
meets Slovakia, while New Zealand faces Paraguay in its final group match on
the same day.
"We didn't get a lot of luck but we didn't create much either," Italy manager
Marcello Lippi said. "This is the second time that our opponents have put a
ball in the box and we've conceded a goal. After that happened, we pulled
ourselves together and put everything into attacking. The players didn't lack
desire, just clear-headedness. We now have to win the last match and roll up
our sleeves because we have no intention of going home."
New Zealand stunned the Italians by taking an early lead as a free kick was
played to the front of goal, where Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro failed to
clear it, leaving a simple tap in for Smeltz.
Italy went on the attack right after conceding the goal and Gianluca Zambrotta
went close with an effort from 20 yards before Montolivo had a 30-yard strike
come back off the post.
But one minute later, Italy's Daniele De Rossi went down inside the penalty
area after minimal contact from New Zealand's Tommy Smith, giving the Azzurri
a penalty kick.
Iaquinta then sent the keeper the wrong way from the spot to level the match
Ivan Vicelich threatened with a shot that fizzed past the left post in the
63rd minute for New Zealand, but Paston needed to produce a good diving save
to deny Montolivo minutes later.
New Zealand then had a chance to grab the lead seven minutes from time when
18-year-old striker Chris Wood juggled the ball past Cannavaro on the left and
rolled a shot just wide of the far post.
Zambrotta had one final opportunity to save Italy from an embarrassing result
in the dying minutes, but his close-range effort was blocked by New Zealand
captain Ryan Nelsen.
06/20 15:24:11 ET