All White On The Night As New Zealand Hold Italy
Monday, 21st June 2010 at 10:23am
Defending World Cup champions Italy were left reeling yesterday after they were held to a 1-1 draw at the hands of footballing minnows New Zealand.
Appearing in only their second World Cup finals, Ricky Herbet's men stunned the Azzurri with an early goal when Shane Smeltz put the team from Aoteroa in the lead after just seven minutes, putting the ball into the Italy net after Winston Reid's flick on landed invitingly at his feet.
Replays showed that Smeltz's goal should have been ruled out for offside, but if the opening goal was controversial then so was the equaliser.
Daniele De Rossi theatrically went down in the area after having his shirt pulled but it was enough to convince the referee who pointed to the spot.
Vincenzo Iaquinta converted the penalty and following the equaliser, Marcelo Lippi's team were in the ascendancy but were thwarted at every turn by All Whites 'keeper Mark Peston who was outstanding.
As time ran down, New Zealand almost snatched all three points when substitute Chris Wood, 18, burst into the Italian box and fired narrowly wide of the far post.
Earlier in the day, Paraguay took a giant stride towards securing their place in the Round of 16 with a comfortable win against European side Slovakia.
Goals either side of halftime from Vera and Riveros were enough to collect all three points for the South Americans, leaving Vladimir Weiss' side bottom of the table with a single point.
In Group G, Brazil assured itself of a place in the knock out phase by beating Sven Goran Eriksson's Ivory Coast side by three goals to one.
Dunga's side finished the game with only 10 men as Kaka was sent off for two very debatable yellow cards, but by that stage Brazil had already scored three times through Luis Fabiano (2) and Elano.
Didier Drogba did net a consolation goal for the African nation and that could prove vital in determining who finished second in Group G should Brazil beat Portugal as expected.