Yet another disappointing result for the Azzurri, while they drew with Paraguay last round of matches, that result seemed acceptable because New Zealand and Slovakia drew as well. But a draw against New Zealand, knowing that Paraguay had beaten Slovakia 2-0 is definitely a bad result.
Lippi decided to start with a standard 4-4-2 formation, with a defense of Zambrotta, Cannavaro, Chiellini, and Criscito from right to left. The midfield was composed of De Rossi and Montolivo in front of the defense with Marchisio on the left and Pepe on the right as they supported the attacking pair of Gilardino and Iaquinta. A line-up that could’ve done without Marchisio and Gilardino for me, I’d rather have Di Natale and Quagliarella with Iaquinta in a 4-3-3.
The match started badly for the Azzurri, Italy were a goal down after just 7 minutes thanks to bad defending and bad goal-keeping. From a free kick swung in for the cross, Cannavaro was unable to clear the ball which allowed Smeltz to tap it past flailing Marchetti. A bad goal to concede with the only positive that at least now Italy had plenty of time to come back against New Zealand.
Italy went on to dominate possession, keeping the ball but not penetrating the New Zealand defence at all, Gilardino was invisible and Iaquinta often didn’t have support. Montolivo didn’t get into the game right away leaving the rest of the team with little direction and order. While Pepe ran his heart out all over the field, it was hard to find Marchisio as he often disappeared for large periods of the game.
But things weren’t going too badly, around the 20th minute Italy began to shoot towards the goal, with Montolivo even hitting the post. After that, De Rossi was brought down in the penalty area and the referee whistled for a penalty, a gift from above. As Iaquinta stepped up to take it, I was worried about whether he’d hit the ball closer to the corner flag or the goal, but the Juventus striker proved me wrong with a very well taken penalty which put the score at 1-1.
And so with a good hour of time to find the winner you’d expect the world champions to find a goal against New Zealand, but it was not so. Italy did try to score, but they were lacking creativity going forward, they were missing Cassano, Balotelli, Rossi, or any type of number 10. And so at half-time Lippi put on Di Natale and Camoranesi, taking off Gilardino and Pepe in hopes to inspire something. Although why he took Pepe off and not Marchisio I have no idea, to me Pepe was one of the best on the field, and Marchisio was truly missing in action.
Italy continued but again, they just weren’t able to penetrate through the defense like Spain, Brazil, and Germany can. Lippi eventually took Marchisio off and put on Pazzini to play a 4-3-3 with Pazzini in the middle with Di Natale left and Iaquinta right. Pazzini was the man I wanted to see, but sadly I didn’t see him at all, he was truly hidden amongst the New Zealand defenders, providing no spark or movement to the Italy attack.
The Azzurri were limited to Montolivo’s long-range shots as New Zealand were comfortable with the result. The New Zealand goal-keeper Paston was excellent at keeping at bay Montolivo’s goal-bound efforts along with a great strike from Camoranesi. Italy were without inspiration as they could only get a draw against New Zealand, a very negative result which makes the Slovakia game practically a “must-win”.