Resolute All Whites claim famous draw with toothless Italy
New Zealand produced a heroic defensive performance as they held Italy to a shock 1-1 draw.
Shane Smelz gave New Zealand a surprising lead when he prodded the ball beyond Italy goalkeeper Federico Marchetti from close range.
And despite Vincenzo Iaquinta’s equalising penalty, Italy were left frustrated by their inability to break through a New Zealand backline manfully marshalled by Ryan Nelsen.
Smelz’s early goal rattled the World Cup holders, and while Italy engineered some half chances, they never truly troubled Ricki Herbert’s men.
When Iaquinta confidently struck beyond New Zealand goalkeeper Mark Paston from the penalty spot, an Italian avalanche of goals seemed imminent.
The flurry of goals, however, never came. Italy were sufficiently urgent, but their forwards lacked the imagination required to unlock the All Whites’ stubborn defence.
Marcelo Lippi introduced Mauro Camoranesi, Antonio Di Natale and Giampaolo Pazzini as second half substitutes, but nobody was capable of beating Paston for a second time.
The performance raises more doubts about Italy’s World Cup credentials, and they now must win their final Group F match against Slovakia.