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ITA 1 - 1 NZL: New Zealand hold reigning champs Italy to a draw

Reigning world champions Italy have been held to an unlikely draw by New Zealand in Nelspruit.

Group FItaly: 1 (Vincenzo Iaquinta (p) 29') New Zealand: 1 (Shane Smeltz 7')

Venue: Mbombela Stadium - Nelspruit Crowd: 38,229 Referee: Carlos Batres (GUA) Yellow cards:ITA - nil NZL - Rory Fallon 14', Tommy Smith 28', Ryan Nelsen 87'

New Zealand got off to a remarkable start by scoring the opener in just the 7th minute when Simon Elliott whipped in a free-kick from way outside the area which was flicked on by Winston Reid and the ball then deflected off Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro and into the path of Shane Smeltz who toe-poked it home from a yard out giving Federico Marchetti no chance in goals.

Italy took up all the attack after that moment as they went about restoring their pride and should have gone level in the 27th minute when Riccardo Montolivo tried his luck from 25 yards out but was denied by the post after his low, swerving ball had beaten All Whites goalkeeper Mark Paston.

Moments later, the reigning champions were awarded a penalty when Tommy Smith pulled the shirt of Daniel De Rossi in the area and managed to equalise through Vincenzo Iaquinta who coolly slotted home his spot kick to make it 1-1 right on the half-hour mark.

The Azzurri pressed on in the latter stages of the first term but failed to turn their dominance into a goal as the score remained 1-1 to the break.

Marcello Lippi made two changes at half-time as he chased all three points, bringing on Antonio Di Natale and Mauro Camoranesi for Simone Pepe and Alberto Gilardino as the Kiwi line-up stayed the same.

With 20 minutes remaining, Montolivo again tested his long range shooting skills with the shot heading for the bottom corner but Paston was equal to the task and made a fine acrobatic save with an outstretched right arm which kept his team in the contest.

As the minutes ticked away, the Italians became more anxious and were misplacing passes as the All Whites were doing their utmost to keep their hands on an unlikely point which almost became three when teenager Chris Wood turned his opponent on the edge of the area before unleashing a left-footed shot which whizzed inches past the upright.

Paston made another brilliant save in the dying moments when Mauro Camoranesi let fly and that was the last play of any consequence as the All Whites held on for their most famous result in their history.

Starting Line-Ups

ITAFederico Marchetti (gk), Domenico Criscito, Giorgio Chiellini, Fabio Cannavaro, Daniele De Rossi, Simone Pepe (Camoranesi 46'), Vincenzo Iaquinta, Alberto Gilardino (Di Natale 46'), Claudio Marchisio (Pazzini 61'), Gianluca Zambrotta, Riccardo Montolivo

Subs - Antonio Di Natale (46'), Mauro Camoranesi (46'), Giampaolo Pazzini (61')

NZL Mark Paston (gk), Tony Lochhead, Winston Reid, Ivan Vicelich (Christie 81'), Ryan Nelsen, Simon Elliott, Shane Smeltz, Chris Killen (Barron 90+3'), Leo Bertos, Rory Fallon (Wood 63'), Tommy Smith

Subs - Chris Wood (63'), Jeremy Christie (81'), Andy Barron (90+3')

Andrew Slevison
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Andrew Slevison

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