What a story! What a shock! New Zealand All Whites’ thoroughly deserve praise for holding Italy to a 1-1 draw in Nelspruit.

Must admit, I, like many of local football fans in South Africa, don’t even know the names of the New Zealand players, except for captain, Ryan Nelsen. Italy’s big names roll off the tongue quite easily: Camaronesi, Cannavaro, etc. The big name players who could not beat their opponents, who were playing in only their second World Cup.

For a team having to qualify against teams like the Solomon Islands, coach Ricki Herbert after this showing can really build on a team for the future. They need to invest – and invest properly in this team, both strategically and financially.

They gave everyone a taste of what was possibly in store after a good showing in last year’s Confederations Cup in SA. What was really satisfying was the fact that New Zealand thoroughly deserved this result. A rock-solid defence allied with keen tactical awareness won the day.

Kudos to the goalkeeper – in my book the man of the match. He gave a sublime goalkeeping display, a pillar of stone in the defensive line, together with his colleagues.

A win would have been even sweeter, more historic. A draw is the result but a victory of huge significance to New Zealand. It’s not about how poorly Italy’s millionaires played on the day – that would be taking the credit away from New Zealand. They fought like tigers, defended like demons and gave the Italians a run for their money.

The night the bunch of mostly part-timers did ‘The Italian Job’. Italy don’t even deserve a mention – it was incredibly New Zealand’s night.

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