Sunday, June 20, 2010

Kiwis Gains Point And Stuns Azzuris

Italian hearts were in their mouths as they saw 19-year old Kiwi giant, Chris Wood controlled the ball, turned Fabio Cannavaro stunningly and looked to have a clear shot on goal. Thankfully for the Azzuris, Wood dragged his shot inches wide of Marchetti's goal, preserving the 1-1 scoreline. The damage had already been done earlier. Shane Smeltz's first half controversial goal had given the Kiwis their second point in South Africa.

Mark Paston in goal had a barnstorming game, pulling off save after save denying and frustrating the Italians. New Zealand's "Thou Shalt Not Pass" ethos led by defiant captain, Ryan Nelsen held firm and were rewarded as Lippi's side ran out of fresh ideas.

Daniele De Rossi and Antonio Di Natale were the two Italian players most likely to break New Zealand's hearts but in the end, it was a deserved draw. It is worrying times for the Azzurri who are suitably solid in defence and midfield but missing that cutting edge in attack. In tight matches such as this, a Cassano dribble or a Totti flick could have been the difference.

Some say that this is the poorest forward line that Italy has assembled to a World Cup. I wouldn't disagree with that. I do however want to point out that Di Natale, Pazzini and Gilardino are the three highest Italian goal scorers in Serie A this season. So Lippi had taken the best in Serie A to this World Cup. Is Andrea Pirlo ready to feature in the now crucial match against Slovakia? He has the passing range and vision to make Di Natale, Pazzini and/or Gilardino look world class.

Traditional European heavyweights are struggling at the moment, with England, France and now Italy faltering. All three are in danger of an early exit from the World Cup. England are beset by the fear factor, France are imploding from in-fighting. At least the Italians have the ability and World Cup winning-experience to advance from Group F.

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