New Zealand hold Italy on a 1-1 draw
New Zealand hold Italy on a 1-1 draw

Most certainly the biggest upset in today’s matches and possible the entire group stages is that the “All Whites” from New Zealand, a dwarf in soccer, held reigning World Champions, Italy on a deserved draw.

The Italians created chance after chance but goal keeper Paston (NZ) seemed unbeatable today. A beacon of calmness in the defense, he kept his net clean with the exception of a penalty that would have all but eliminated the Azzurri if Vincenzo Iaquinta hadn’t converted the questionable chance from the penalty spot.

In the opening minutes of the game it was expected that the complete New Zealand proverbial bus would be parked in front of Paston’s goal. The opposite was true and the All Whites went into a clever but ferocious attack from kick-off, shocking the Italians into a defensive mode they where not expecting to have to fullfil. Inside 7 minutes New Zealand’s opportunistic approach turned the tables on one of World Cup’s favorites with a well executed free kick was poorly handled by¬† Fabio Cannavaro and his deflection inside the 6 yard box wasn’t lost on Shane Smeltz who did not squander this present.

From that moment on the Italians seemed to be in shock and New Zealand created two more clear chances to create a bigger buffer. Finally at the 16 min. mark the Italians came to terms that they desperately needed the 3 points and an all out attack created very dangerous situations in front of Paston of which one led to the penalty kick.

At halftime both sides where equal again and after the break the Italians with two new “fresh men” tried to forcefully break the New Zealand defense. With remarkable ease the Oceania representative kept clearing and even got in the dying minutes of the game the chance to hand Italy an real embarrassing defeat through 18 yr. old Chris Wood who missed the goal by inches after a masterful move making him lose his guard.

Slovakia – Paraguay

In the earlier Group F meeting between  Slovakia and Paraguay the South Americans were simply too strong for the men of coach Vladimir Weiss. Fine orchestrated goals from Enrique Vera and Cristian Riveros earned the controlling team the three points to go on top of Group F.

Slovakia did their best to get out of the grip of the Paraguayans but simply missed the finesse and aggression needed.

Slovakia now can only advance to the round of 16 through a decisive win in their last game against Italy, while Paraguay will only need a draw against New Zealand to secure their place in the last 16.

It will be an interesting day in this group since all 4 teams still stand a chance to advance and surprise upsets in this group do not seem to be impossible after New Zealand’s draw against Italy.

An interesting note will be that should Paraguay win or draw their last game against Slovakia and Italy and New Zealand reach a draw a penalty shoot-out will decide who of the two will advance to next round.

Brazil – Ivory Coast

Brazil booked their place in the last 16 after a convincing 3-1 victory over Ivory Coast at Soccer City South Africa. Two goals from Luis Fabiano and a third by Elano, before Didier Drogba pulled on back late in the second half, secured Brazil’s advance.

Drogba’s “Elephants”, possibly before the World Cup opening Africa’s biggest hope to reach the finals, came up short against a solid play from the 5 time world champions and their World Cup hopes to be the first African continent nation to beat Brazil, was chattered in the 25th minute when Kaka served Fabiano superbly who powered the ball high into the roof of the net over goal keeper Boubacar Barry.

Within 5 minutes after the restart of the second half Luis Fabiano struck again upon freeing himself from two defenders and firing a low shot the goalkeeper could only get a hand on but not enough to deflect it outside the Ivory Coast goal.

It was again the Brazilian Kaka who orchestrated with razor sharp precision a simple tip-in for Elano putting the Brazilians 3-0 ahead.

In the final minutes of the Game Kaka became again the center of discussion but this time getting 2 yellow cards within 3 minutes and that was enough to see “Red”. Luckily for Kaka and Brazil their last game in the Group stages will not affect their advancement to the last 16 round.

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