New Zealand can again hold their heads up high after pushing World Champions Italy all the way in their second game of the 2010 World Cup.
1. Jeepers Keepers
Italy have lost the services of inspirational goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon following news that the vastly experienced Juventus man needs a back operation. However, Buffon will delay the procedure until after the tournament so that he can remain with the squad and hopes to be involved in the latter stages of the tournament should Italy make it that far. “I hope I can make it even though it will be tough. But I have to for Italy. I want the final,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. Replacing him between the posts is Federico Marchetti, a half time substitute in the opening game against Paraguay. The 27 year old plays his club football with Cagliari in Serie A. His opposite number for this one, Mark Paston, was arguably the Man of the Match as he pulled off some super saves to deny Italy on a number of occassions. The 33 year old grew in confidence as the game wore on and played a huge role in this stunning result.
2. Goals that never were?
Both of the goals were controversial in their own right. Shane Smeltz was clearly in an offside position when he pounced on a Fabio Cannavaro error following Winston Reid’s flick on to give the All Whites an early lead. At the other end, Daniele De Rossi went down ever so easily in the area to win a penalty that was converted by Vincenzo Iaquinta. There is no doubt that there was tug on De Rossi’s shirt by Tommy Smith but it is rare that such a foul is given. Yet another example of the lack of consistency in the game.
3. The best form of defence….
….is attack. The New Zealand 3-4-3 formation has been the subject of some discussion given its brave nature. It is more than just a little unusual for a such a low ranked team to field as attacking a system on paper as this one. The three-pronged attack of Shane Smeltz, Rory Fallon and Chris Killen is very well balanced and causes defences plenty of problems, yet they never seem to really look short at the back. Even when Fallon was taken off with the game so evenly poised, New Zealand refused to abandon the system with Chris Wood taking his place in attack. Indeed, Wood almost won the game in the last ten minutes but his shot across goal went agonisingly wide of the right hand post. Credit must go to coach Ricki Herbert, the lowest paid at the finals, for his excellent organisational skills.
New Zealand’s fate is now in their own hands, and a win against Paraguay will guarantee them a place in the knockout stages, something that would have been considered a ludicrous pipe dream coming into the tournament. For Italy, it was a demoralising blow as they look to defend their title and a win over Slovakia in the final group game is a must.