Reigning champions Italy look to put their recent poor form behind them when they take on The ‘All Whites’ of New Zealand in Nelspruit tomorrow.
Lippi’s men are without arguably their greatest asset in goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, but hope he will still play a part in the rest of their campaign after stating his will to delay surgery on his back untill after the tournament. Elsewhere on the injury bench – Andrea Pirlo, still missing with a calf injury.
Group F is wide open, with things as they were, all square with each nation having a point to their name. Under pressure Italy boss Marcello Lippi is confident that this can change and looks set to name a similar side to the one that drew in their opener against Paraguay. Lippi said: “I have not seen a great team come into the World Cup and play 100 per cent straightaway. Good preparation is the best way to approach each match with regards to results.” That preparation has been disrupted heavily by the loss of Buffon, but sub- keeper Federico Marchetti is confident he can prove an able deputy when called upon.
Newcomers New Zealand go into the game full of belief, more so after snatching a point with a last minute goal against Slovakia. The All Whites gave the Azzurri a tough test last time around, only losing 4-3 to the world champions in a friendly. New Zealand and Plymouth striker Rory Fallon promised the Italian defence plenty of aerial combat, warning: “We’re a big, strong team. Those diagonal balls and crosses can make it difficult for defenders”.
Italy will no doubt have one eye on results elsewhere, as minnow sides continue to cause upsets; but three points here is vital in what is see on paper as their easiest fixture.
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