Mamma Mia! Italy 1-1 New Zealand

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Italy 1-1 New Zealand

New Zealand achieve the greatest result in their history by holding defending World Cup champions Italy to a 1-1 draw.

Rank tournament outsiders New Zealand pulled off one of the biggest World Cup shocks in recent memory by holding defending champions Italy to a historic draw in Nelspruit.

The Azzurri pressed hard for the three points in a pulsating second half, but the All Whites stood firm and could have snatched a remarkable victory had 18-year-old West Brom forward Chris Wood not guided a late left-foot shot just wide of the post.

Regardless, this result easily represents the best result in the history of nation which still does not have a professional football league and is much more famed for its daunting rugby exploits.

Italy meanwhile - who are sorely lacking the creativity of injured AC Milan midfielder Andrea Pirlo - are now under real pressure: they need to beat Slovakia on Thursday to guarantee their place in the last 16.

And should they only manage a draw, then New Zealand - 2000-1 to win the World Cup before the tournament started - could deny them with victory over Paraguay in their final Group D match.

Before this vibrant encounter at the Mbombela Stadium, Italy coach Marcello Lippi had identified New Zealand's aerial threat as the main danger to his team - and that warning proved prophetic within just seven minutes.

Simon Elliott whipped over a vicious free-kick delivery and with tall defender Winston Reid soaring highest to flick the ball on, Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro - who lifted the ultimate prize in world football back in 2006 - could only help it into the path of Shane Smeltz.

The New Zealand striker looked significantly offside but was nerveless in prodding his 20th goal in 37 internationals past Federico Marchetti, who is still standing in for Italy's injured first-choice keeper Gianluigi Buffon.

The Azzurri nearly hit back instantly but All Whites goalkeeper Mark Paston clawed out a dangerously bouncing Riccardo Montolivo free-kick with a posse of blue shirts waiting at close quarters to pounce on any mistake.

Italy soon set about exploiting any means they could - Cannavaro accused Rory Fallon of using his elbow after another sturdy challenge in the air for which the Plymouth striker was booked.

But AC Milan's celebrated right-back Gianluca Zambrotta injected some flair into the Italian charge after 23 minutes, firing in a spectacular shot which whistled just past the top corner before Riccardo Montolivo surged forward in similar style to swerve the controversial Jabulani ball against the upright from fully 30 yards.

Italy made their pressure tell just before the half hour when Ipswich Town defender Tommy Smith conceded a penalty after tussling with Daniele De Rossi as they battled to get on the end of a cross, though the Roma midfielder seemed to tumble easily.

Referee Carlos Batres booked Smith before Juventus striker Vincenzo Iaquinta coolly slotted home, ignoring New Zealand's apparent attempts to match Italy's evident gamesmanship by trying to delay the kick.

Italy ended the first half in the ascendency but Lippi - knowing a win was of paramoutn importance - was still proactive at the break, bringing on Antonio di Natale and Mauro Camoranesi for Alberto Gilardino and Simone Pepe.

After Iaquinta squandered a defence-splitting De Rossi pass in the 60th minute, Lippi again made a change with in-form Sampdoria striker Giampaolo Pazzini replacing the ineffective Claudio Marchisio.

Despite struggling to keep possession, New Zealand nearly took a dramatic lead as Ivan Vicelich lashed a volley just wide.

With play really opening up - as many matches have in the second round of group matches following cagey encounters in the first - Montolivo once more showcased his long-range abilities but again Paston proved equal to his shot by palming it away from danger as the pressure mounted.

Wood soon replaced Plymouth forward Fallon and nearly snatched a dramatic late winner as he turned Cannavaro inside-out before guided a well-struck low shot just the wrong side of the post.

That is not to say Italy could not have won it - Argetinian-born Cameronesi forced another decent stop from Paston - but destiny was on New Zealand's side and, on the balance of chances if not possession statistics, they fully deserved to take their World Cup points tally to two.
 
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DiamondGeezer

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Missed the game but wow the surprise results keep rolling in........

This is making England look good......maybe even favorites :proud:
 

charlie senator

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If England can get through the group stage things might not be as bad as they seem. Most of the so called big teams are having a torrid time at the moment
 

gasman

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Everyone bar Argentina has been crap lol and even they look dodgy at the back.
Were still in with a shout for this
 
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