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Italy vs New Zealand
Group F, 2010 World Cup
Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Sunday, 20 June 2010
1500 (BST) / 1600 (Local Time)

The Group F is perfectly balanced at the moment with all teams having drawn their opening game. Italy went into halftime 1-0 down after the Paraguayan defender Antolin Alcaraz headed home in the 39th minute. Italian fans must’ve been left biting their fingernails when Gianluigi Buffon had to be subbed at halftime due to a back injury. But Italy came back strongly and Daniele De Rossi put them on level with their opponents.

On the other hand, Robert Vittek gave Slovaks the lead when he scored in the 50th minute. It wasn’t until the third minuted of the injury time that Winston Reid scored for the All Whites. And the match ended at that.

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Italy
Gigi Buffon is not playing because of his back injury and he is probably going to have a surgery on his spine. Bad news for not just the Italians. Buffon is a sensational keeper. Casillas might be the best but he can never be Gianluigi Buffon.

Having a world class keeper has a big drawback. Your second choice keeper almost never gets to see playing time, leaving him inexperienced and maybe incompetent. But that’s not necessarily the case. Cagliari’s shot stopper Federico Marchetti may only have only six appearances for Italy under his belt but he seems confident enough.

Marchetti said:

“He [Lippi] told me to be calm to do what i know and this is the most important thing for me. We have a very honest relationship and he has confidence in me and this is really important too.”

Marchetti’s statement does hint that he has been feeling the immense pressure of replacing a phenomenal goalkeeper. But at least, he seems confident enough. He further said:

“A goalkeeper is the last one in the team so when you do something wrong either you get saved by the post or it’s a goal but i think a goalkeeper goes onto a pitch hoping to save everything. He can’t worry about making mistakes or he couldn’t be a goalkeeper.”

New Zealand
This is New Zealand’s second appearance in the World Cup finals and recently against Slovakia, they secured their first ever point in a World Cup. On paper, New Zealand does not stand even the smallest, tiniest chance in front of the four time and the reigning world champions but fortunately for the All Whites, games are not decided on paper.

The qualifying campaigns and the group stages have been quite shaky for the giants of international football. We have all seen and read a lot about it. But the question is, can New Zealand join the party of raping the odds? Or will Italy prevail?

Since the group is so perfectly balanced and the favorites of the tournament bottling one after another, it is hard to predict what will be consequences if New Zealand is to lose. Surely, with just one game left after this, it will be a make or break situation for the Kiwis and probably their survival in the World Cup will be dependent on the Slovakia-Italy game.

Head-to-Head
Italy and New Zealand have only faced each other once in a friendly game. New Zealand went 1-2 up at halftime but Italy emerged as the winners with a final scoreline of 4-3. Gilardino and Iaquinta scored twice each for Italy and Smeltz scored one and Killen scored twice.

Prediction
2-0 to Italy.

Italy are slow starters at major competitions and I think New Zealand (rated 78) is just the team to kick start the Italian giant. Either that or yet another boring 0-0 draw. New Zealand will not be able to breach the Italian defense.

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