Nelspruit: New Zealand caused a big upset to defending champions Italy by holding them to a 1-1 draw in their Group F match at Nelspruit. Infact the All Whites were the team to score the opening goal and put Italy in danger of losing all 3 points before Vincenzo Iaquinta scored a penalty for the Azzurris.
Coming into the match, Italy were tipped to thrash the All Whites but the All Whites came out positive, attacking and stunned the Azzurris with an early goal through former Halifax Town striker Shane Smeltz. Ricki Herbert had fielded three strikers in an adventurous line-up, and was rewarded for his boldness with the opening goal inside seven minutes.
The Italians after conceding the goal started to pull out a better game, dominating most of the play and creating quite a number of chances trying to search for the equalizer. Giorgio Chiellini once got a good chance to pull the equalizer but the Juventus centre-half provided a typical defender"s finish, his shot was wayward.
The Italians were constantly pressing for the equalizer but were not able to find the net. Riccardo Montolivo came closest with a superb bending shot towards All Whites goal but his shot hit the inside of the post off to safety. At that moment it seemed like the Azzurris would lose out all 3 points but luckily for them All Whites defender Tommy Smith was penalised for pulling down Daniele De Rossi in the box. Iaquinta stepped up to take the resultant penalty and level the scores with a perfect spot-kick low to the left of the catch the keeper wrong-footed.
All Whites coach Ricki Herbert was happy with the result, thus helping them to stay in the competition. The Italians were dissapointed but they will be facing off against Slovakia for their final group match to make it to the knockout stages.