Italy lacks finish in another draw
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
Italy's Riccardo Montolivo reacts after his shot hit the post against New Zealand on Sunday. (REUTERS/David Gray)
NELSPRUIT -- Italy must find someone who can score consistently if it wants to threaten in this World Cup.
Italy attacked New Zealand from every angle and every position on the field Sunday.
In the end all they had to show for it was a 1-1 draw with the Kiwis.
The result means Italy must win in their last game against Slovakia to guarantee passage to the next round.
The Kiwis earned their second point, a fantastic result for them.
It was a much better Italian performance than their opening game draw with Paraguay.
Italy was active and pushed the ball around the park with authority.
Its only concern had to be with the lack of finishing. The Italians didn't lack for chances.
New Zealand had trouble staying with the defending World Cup champions and did whatever they could to slow them down. As a result, it was a game punctuated by fouls and some tough play.
With Paraguay winning 2-0 over Slovakia, the Italians knew they would have to win to keep pace in Group F.
They had New Zealand on the rack several times in the second half and pounded away at Kiwi goalkeeper Mark Paston.
But Paston stood his ground. His best save in the second half came on a hard, long, dipping shot from Riccardo Montolivo.
But give New Zealand credit as it was under pressure from the moment it took a surprise 1-0 lead in the seventh minute of the first half.
New Zealand won't startle anyone with its skill. It is the lowest-ranked team on the FIFA list to make the World Cup.
At the end of the match, the Italians left the pitch shaking their heads in disbelief.
The Italians haven't given up many chances in this tournament. But Paraguay scored on the only chance it had while New Zealand did it early on the only chance it created in the first half.
A free kick from a long way out by Simon Elliott somehow found its way to the top of the six-yard box. Fabio Cannavaro attempted to clear it but couldn't get to it. Shane Smeltz jabbed it into the net under Federico Marchetti.
Marchetti was starting in place of injured No. 1 Gianluigi Buffon.
It was the one area of concern Italy had to deal with. New Zealand forwards are big and powerful in the air.
But it was difficult for the Kiwis to replicate the feat because they never had the ball for the rest of the first half.
The Italians weren't about to wait around to try and tie.
From the kickoff after the goal they attacked immediately and produced chance after chance.
New Zealand was reduced to taking the ball and making long clearances to no one in particular.
Particularly effective in the first half was fullback Gianluca Zambrotta who certainly didn't look his age.
He constantly opened up the New Zealand defence with strong overlapping runs. His crosses put the Kiwis under pressure.
Midfielder Simone Pepe was also very active, working down the same side as Zambrotta, giving New Zealand as much as it could handle.
With the Italians producing so many chances it was inevitable that they would find the right key to unlock the door.
It came from midfielder Daniele De Rossi who chased down a cross in front of the net, forcing New Zealand defender Tommy Smith to tug his shirt and bring him down.
Guatemalan referee Carlos Batres pointed to the spot.
Vincenzo Iaquinta made no mistake on the penalty.
Now Italy finds itself in the same position as several other top teams in this World Cup. It must win to assure it won't face the embarrassment of being shipped home after the first round.