What: FIFA 2010 World Cup
Who: Italy vs New Zealand (Group F)
When: Sunday 20th June, 2010, at 15.00 UK time
Where: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit, South Africa

More Quality Needed

The Italian team produced a good performance against Paraguay and showed great team spirit, high fitness levels, but a terrible lack of quality. Against the South Americans, the Azzurri could only manage just a few shots on goal and only then through midfielders Simone Pepe and Riccardo Montolivo. Alberto Gilardino, expected to fire in the goals in the group stage produced his regular poor display at international level, while Vincenzo Iaquinta on the left and Claudio Marchisio behind the forwards, were both out of sorts.

Against New Zealand, Marcello Lippi plans to play with a different formation, possibly a 4-4-2 with Giampaolo Pazzini and Serie A’s top goalscorer Totò Di Natale up front (or Gilardino and Iaquinta as second choice pairing). Unfortunately, talk is already growing suggesting that Gianluigi Buffon’s World Cup is already over. The legendary keeper has suffered a back injury which will require an operation and whether he will be risked by Lippi with painkilling injections is open to debate.

More Shocks in Store?

New Zealand defender Winston Ried entered in his country’s footballing history books during the match against Slovakia. In the 92nd minute, the former Denmark youth player, scored the equaliser for the All Whites, that in turn secured them their first ever World Cup point.

Ricky Herbert’s boys don’t have great expectations against the World Cup holders, but now they can play with confidence and a little bit of optimism after a fine display against the Slovaks. Last year, in a friendly in South Africa before the Confederations Cup, New Zealand scored three goals against the Azzurri, but unfortunately for them, Italy scored one more at the other end. A repeat of the clinical finishing of that display would be most welcome.

Recent form

Italy 1-2 Mexico 1-2 (03/06; Friendly)
Switzerland 1-1 Italy (05/06; Friendl)
Italy 1-1 Paraguay (14/06; World Cup – Group F)

New Zealand:
Slovenia 3-1 New Zealand (04/06; Friendly)
Chile 2-0 New Zealand (09/06; Friendly)
New Zealand 1- 1 Slovakia (15/06; World Cup – Group F)

Players to watch

Italy – Simone Pepe: Pepe played for Udinese last season, but will turn out for Juventus in the next campaign. The midfielder may not be a very skilful player, but his surging runs on the left hand side were very important for the Azzurri against Paraguay. Pepe could become a key player for Marcello Lippi in a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3 formation.

New Zealand – Ryan Nelsen: Nelson’s experience will be very important against the World Cup holders. In a match where New Zealand can expect, for long periods, to operate essentially defensively, Nelsen has to command the backline to avoid to being crushed by the Azzurri.

Match prediction

Italy need to win this after only drawing with Paraguay in their first game. The Azzurri will certainly not want to head into their last group game with Slovakia with the chance of being dumped out of the World Cup on the cards. Given this, Lippi will field an attacking team against the All Whites, possibly with two forwards and an aggressive midfield. The All Whites in contrast need a perfect display defensively, while hoping to steal a goal on the break which, against an ageing Azzurri defence is not impossible. Nevertheless, Italy can grab a difficult 2-0 victory.

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