The match between Italy and New Zealand in Nelspruit was a crucial encounter that could give a clear picture to the standings in Group F. But instead, this match turned the group wide open. Probably this is the one group in which all the four teams still have a very strong chance of qualifying to the pre quarters.
It was a painful start again for Italy. They conceded a goal in the beginning for the second successive time in two matches. But as in the first match, this was an eye opener for the Italians. They controlled the game for the whole part of the remaining 80 minutes, except for one instance towards the dying moments of the match. It is only fair to say that Italy dominated the game, but Mark Paston was the only one who stood between them and a deserved win. Full marks to the spirited New Zealand goalie who could give his country a great chance going into the last group game against Paraguay.
Italy’s substitutions seemed to be misfit and illogical. It was for no specific reason that Simone Pepe was replaced with Giampaolo Pazzini in the beginning of the second half. Pepe has great capacity in taking amazing curves from corner kicks. If he was there in the second half, they would not have required the service of Riccardo Montolivo to take those corners. His kicks flew away without purpose. Another substitute Mauro Camoranesi was not generous enough to pass the ball on to his team mates.
Even if Italy could not post a win in the first two matches, they still have a very strong chance to move to the next round. All they need to do is win the last group match against Slovakia. This would definitely give them a berth in the pre quarters. They might even go through with a draw in the last match, but then things would depend on the Paraguay – New Zealand match. But I don’t think the world champions would want to do that. They should get the services of Andrea Pirlo from the beginning, and the off-colour Claudio Marchisio should be left out. Antonio Di Natale should play in the starting line-up instead of Alberto Gilardino. Hope to see the same controlling game from Italy in Jo’burg, but with better finishing touches.