Recaps and game analysis to follow one or two hours after each match.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Game 28: Italy vs New Zealand

New Zealand shocked defending champions Italy on Sunday with a 1-1 draw.

The All Whites struck first in the 7th minute when Shane Smeltz was able to get onto the end of a long-range free kick, staying on-sides due to the flick on by Italian captain Fabio Cannavaro.

However, Italy would soon level in the 29th minute when De Rossi's shirt was tugged, and the Italian theatrically went down into the box to be awarded a penalty. Vincenzo Iaquinta would calmly even the score, and from then on out it would be a dog fight for the Aussies.

Only having three shots the entire game, one from Chris Wood narrowly missing at the end of the game, New Zealand was constantly on the defensive. Big stops from skipper Ryan Nelson were integral, but even he could not outshine the brilliant display from New Zealand keeper Mark Paston, who would come up huge on numerous occasions, denying Iaquinta, Montolivo, and others as he managed to keep his team in the game.

This is the second draw for both teams this year at the finals, New Zealand having tied the struggling Slovakians, while Italy drew 1-1 to Paraguay.

Although the much needed Andreas Pirlo is likely to return against Slovakia, something all Italians will be relishing, number one keeper Buffon could be out for the rest of the world cup due to his back injury.

In truth, Italy dominated the entire game, having 23 shots, and controlling 72% of the possession, but they just could not break down the New Zealand defense.

Italy almost tied up the match in the 27th minute, when Montolivo drilled a shot into the post, and it would remain there best chance of all their shots throughout the match.

At the final whistle, players on both sides calmly exchanged jerseys, and shook each others hands, but around the world views on the game will not be taken so lightly. Italian fans are dreading a display that France did in 2002, when after winning both the World Cup and the European Championship, the team crashed out without scoring a goal. Italy now has two goals from both their games, but they will need to win their match against Slovakia in order to progress. Normally, that would seem like an easy prediction, but with the Azzuri struggling to find the back of the net, the result could be anyone's guess.

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