Italy 1-1 New Zealand

Were it not for Switzerland’s victory over Spain this would be the shock of the tournament so far. New Zealand were excellent holding Italy here and might have won it at the death, young West Brom forward Chris Wood firing just wide of the post with two minutes remaining.

For Italy this was an even more ignominious draw than their opening match against Paraguay that ended with the same score. While the South Americans have since shown that a 1-1 draw against them is a good result, Italy must have expected to win here. In truth they barely deserved the draw.

New Zealand got off to a dream start, the excellent Shane Smeltz firing home after Winston Reid, scorer against Slovakia, had flicked on a Simon Elliott free kick. Smeltz was a good yard offside when Fabio Cannavaro made a mess of his clearance, Smeltz tapping the ball past Federico Marchetti, in for the injured Gianluigi Buffon. The crowd, stunned, stopped blowing their vuvuzelas for a brief moment. Italy, too, were in shock.

Italy almost hit back straight away, Kiwi goalkeeper Mark Paston clawing away a Montolivo free kick, but is was not to be and they soon set about seeking an advantage in traditionally Italian ways: chiefly by trying to get people sent off. The excellent Rory Fallon picked up an early yellow card for a foul on Cannavaro and Italy began making the most of every challenge the Plymouth Argyle forward involved himself in.

When that didn’t work – and both Zambrotta and Montolivo had come close with fierce shots from distance, one just wide and another thumping against the post – Daniele De Rossi won a dubious penalty. The ball was whipped in from the left and De Rossi went down under a challenge from Ipswich Town’s Tommy Smith. Iaquinta dispatched the penalty and Italy found themselves level.

Predictably Italy turned up the heat on New Zealand in a pulsating, at times frantic second half. Lippi brought on Mauro Camoranesi – who had done so much to rescue a draw against Paraguay – and Antonio di Natale at half time. Italy had by far the majority of possession but it was New Zealand who came closest to nicking a win. Veteran Ivan Vicelich volleyed just wide before youngster Chris Wood had the best chance of the day at the death.

There was still time for Italy to create one more chance but Camoranesi was denied once more by Paston, who had a great day in goal. But it was not to be and Italy, like England, find themselves needing a win against Slovakia to guarantee progress to the second round. New Zealand could still qualify with a win over Paraguay, which seems improbable, but in so unpredictable a tournament as this they surely have a chance.

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