All Whites happy with spoiler role against Italy

Saturday, June 19, 2010

NELSPRUIT - When the draw for the World Cup football finals was made, the probable scenario ahead of Sunday’s Group F match between Italy and New Zealand was clear.

Italy would arrive in the town near the world renowned Kruger Park with three points from their opening game against Paraguay, while the All Whites would arrive licking their wounds after losing to Slovakia.

That was the probable scenario.

In reality, they are on equal terms, with Italy held 1-1 by Paraguay and the All Whites fighting to the same result against Slovakia.

“Look, I am sure everybody in the group thought they would get three points out of New Zealand and maybe the Slovakia result will change Italy’s thinking a small bit,” said New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert.

The coach, who was a member of the New Zealand squad the only previous time they qualified for the finals in 1982, said he was now looking to go even further.

“I think the beauty of it and great for the country is that no matter what happens against Italy, we’re still not out of it,” he said.

Herbert could play his vice captain Tim Brown, who arrived in South Africa earlier this week after undergoing surgery to an injured shoulder. Herbert though said that he would wait and see.

“You know what players are like. They want to step out tomorrow but Tim is realistic. I am not going to put any pressure on him. If he’s positive and comfortable around selection time, he will be considered.”

But while Herbert can go into the match knowing that he has already achieved more than most New Zealand football fans had hoped for, his Italian counterpart Marcello Lippi is facing a nightmare.

The reigning champions struggled against Paraguay and it was only a defensive error that gifted the Azzurri their equaliser.

Lippi will have to start the game without the highly-rated Gianluca Buffon, as well as Andrea Pirlo.

“I feel the confidence of my team-mates and I plan to enjoy the game. I am calm and ready to help the team,” said Cagliari goalkeeper Federico Marchetti, who is expected to take the place of Buffon.

For him the prospect of losing the game is unthinkable.

“What would happen if we lost? I am not thinking about that. I think only about winning,” said Marchetti.

Danielle De Rossi, who scored Italy’s goal against Paraguay, said that they would not underestimate the New Zealand side.

“In the World Cup you no longer get games that finish 5-0 or 6-0. Not qualifying for the second round would be a complete failure. It would be like New Zealand going out in the first round of the rugby World Cup.

“Our superior technical skills should see us win. However we need to take them and the challenge they offer seriously. We can’t discount the qualities they offer,” De Rossi said.

Italy probably has good reason to take their opponent’s seriously. In a friendly in Pretoria last year ahead of the Confederations Cup, New Zealand led twice before Italy rallied to win 4-2.

Lippi and his team would be more than happy to take such a score from the Mbombela Stadium Sunday.

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