20 Jun 2010

All Whites face Italy in greatest challenge yet

9:40 pm on 20 June 2010

The All Whites are about to embark on what is being called the biggest day in New Zealand football history when they take on the reigning champions Italy at the FIFA World Cup in Nelspruit, South Africa overnight (2am Monday NZT).

New Zealand are ranked 78th in the world and many regarded the fixture as a mismatch when the draw was made.

But the All Whites have since performed well in warm up matches and notched up a creditable 1-1 draw with Slovakia in their only match so far in the FIFA World Cup.

Italy are short on confidence and both teams will also remember a friendly game played as a warm up to the Confederations Cup last year, when Italy only just squeezed past New Zealand 4-3.

But All Whites coach Ricki Herbert says while his side will draw confidence from that, it would be a mistake to read too much from it.

He says the benefit of that game is that his players know what it's like to be on the same pitch as the world champions.

All Whites defender Tommy Smith says they have nothing to lose.

All Whites line up same as against Slovakia

New Zealand will start the match with the same line up that drew against Slovakia.

Vice captain Tim Brown, who's recovering from a fractured shoulder, has been named in the reserves but is more likely to play in the final pool game against Paraguay.

Ricki Herbert, who as a player helped New Zealand to their only previous World Cup appearance in 1982, said that even if his side lost against the Italians they could be proud of what they had achieved in simply reaching South Africa.

He said the team's done an incredibly good job, putting football in New Zealand back in a marvelous place.

With all four teams in Group F having drawn their opening matches, the group will be decided in the final round of matches.

In other matches overnight, Paraguay are up against Slovakia, as both teams fight for a place in the second round.

Brazil takes on Ivory Coast in Group G at Soccer City in Johannesburg.