New Zealand All Whites celebrate their goal against Italy at the World Cup.

New Zealand players celebrate after New Zealand's Shane Smeltz, partially visible at second from left, scored a goal, during the World Cup Group F soccer match between Italy and New Zealand at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, South Africa, Sunday, June 20, 2010. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

This column was going to be exclusively about the Socceroos’ gutsy performance against Ghana, but it would be remiss of me to ignore an even more impressive performance by the New Zealand All Whites to hold out defending champions Italy in the upset of the tournament.

In a tournament of upsets, this took the cake due to the sheer gulf in experience and supposed tactical superiority between the Italians and a New Zealand side made up by a core group of players and coaching staff from the A-League’s Wellington Phoenix, their domestic league and players in the lower divisions in England.

The grit and determination to grind out unexpected results against adversity (All Whites against the defending champs, Socceroos with a man down) saw both antipodean teams show that fighting spirit that both countries like to demonstrate in their sporting performances.

It was incredible to see the Kiwi fans in the stands rejoicing as their All Whites confidently held out the desperate Italian attacks, with the Kiwis replicating the Phoenix’s tradition of “shirts off with 10 to go” and exposing the world to some Kiwi skin!

It felt more like a Phoenix home game at Westpac Stadium than a crucial World Cup group match in front of a global audience who probably couldn’t point New Zealand on a map.

Like the Socceroos four years ago, the All Whites are riding a wave of emotion and self-belief. Qualifying was the ultimate goal, giving them both the confidence of going to the tournament with nothing to lose.

“I think that has stopped our nation of four million people,” coach Ricki Herbert told AAP.

“It’s an incredible result and it’s way above anything we have achieved before against the stature of our competitors.

“Anything is possible and we’re doing okay for a team who some said shouldn’t be playing at this World Cup.”

After much debate about the future of the Wellington Phoenix and Oceania, the All Whites are playing for more than just national honour.

The result is a huge fillip for the A-League.

With players such as Shane Smeltz (scorer against the Italians), Mark Paston (the star against the Italians) and Jason Culina for the Socceroos performing so admirably on the biggest stage, our little league is being represented very well.

And let’s not forget about Herbert.

For the second straight match Herbert stuck to his plan of being defensively well structured and organised, led by inspirational captain Ryan Nelsen.

Herbert has instilled his team with a self-belief, compensating for their obvious limitations in terms of personnel by being very well organised at the back, yet with the confidence (and ability) to go forward and hold the ball up when needed.

But it’s only a strategy that will pay off with the right balance and confidence in the XI to do the job.

This point was proved in the contrast between the Socceroos’ performances against Germany and Ghana.

Verbeek and the Socceroos should be praised for rebounding in such a way, with the Dutchman showing faith in players such as Carl Valeri, Brett Holman, David Careny and co, and, unlike the game against Germany, allowing the team to play.

They restored pride in the shirt with their dramatic form reversal.

Compared to the Ghana match, what’s even more obvious now is the defeatist attitude that pervaded Verbeek’s tactics and the Socceroos’ performance against Germany, and will cost us the chance to match our achievements of four years ago in progressing past the group stage.

As the All Whites have shown, a bit of self-belief goes a long way.

The story of the 2010 World Cup is fast becoming how the minnows are stopping the heavyweights from playing.

Remarkably, England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France have won only one of their nine games at the time of writing.

Are the heavyweights being unduly burdened by expectations or are their players just too fatigued for the rigours of a World Cup following a seemingly endless club season? Or are the minnows, helped by the increased professionalism of their own leagues, grinding out results with their well structured defensive strategies, forcing the fatigued powerhouses to chase the games?

As we’ve seen, if they get it right, the minnows are more than capable of grinding out a result and causing a few upsets.

Incredibly, both Australia AND New Zealand are in contention for the final 16 going into the final group games.

For the Socceroos, the equation is simple: should Ghana defeat Germany and the Socceroos defeat Serbia, we go through. That’s our best bet. The goal swing needed with any other result is simply too great for a team with the striker shortfall that the Socceroos have.

The Germany match will ultimately cost the Socceroos – as it should, hopefully remembered as a reminder of how the Socceroos must never approach a game again.

With this in mind, some may view the tournament as failure due to their inability to match their Round of 16 appearances in 2006.

But at least an enormous amount of pride and faith has been restored in the Socceroos, overcoming the damage done by the Germany game.

For the All Whites, a result against Paraguay and another stalemate for Italy would see New Zealand into the final 16.

Who would have thought it?

But it doesn’t matter what happens in their final group game.

The All Whites have won their World Cup.

Re-live the All Whites vs Italy clash as it happened with Tony Tannous’ analysis HERE

Adrian Musolino
Adrian Musolino

Adrian Musolino is editor of V8X Magazine, and has written as an expert on The Roar since 2008, cementing himself as a key writer who can see the big picture in sport. He freelances on other forms of motorsport, football, cycling and more.

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The Crowd Says (99)

  • June 21st 2010 @ 5:00am
    Sam said | June 21st 2010 @ 5:00am | ! Report

    The fact you compare the Socceroos draw with Ghana with the All Whites draw with defending world champions is laughable.
    You write like Ghana are a superpower of world football.
    Even with a man down Ghana are ranked 32nd in the world, 12 places below the Australian internationals.
    The Ghana draw was more like a ‘phew! thank goodness for that’ moment as opposed to the ‘absolute sporting mountain’ that the New Zealanders just climbed.
    NZ are ranked 78th in the world, Italy 5th. you do the math.
    Actually I’ll do it for you because it just looks amazing to read; 73 places difference.
    Quite frankly the fact that the two games are talked about in the same article is insulting.

    • June 21st 2010 @ 5:27am
      Socboy said | June 21st 2010 @ 5:27am | ! Report

      Couldn’t have said it better myself Sam

    • June 21st 2010 @ 5:52am
      Roger Rational said | June 21st 2010 @ 5:52am | ! Report

      Is this a parody of a thin-skinned Kiwi?

      • June 21st 2010 @ 5:56am
        Mega said | June 21st 2010 @ 5:56am | ! Report

        Have to agree. The article does praise the All Whites. What more do you want?

        • June 21st 2010 @ 6:26am
          Socboy said | June 21st 2010 @ 6:26am | ! Report

          Just another chance for glory hunters to once again try and claim new Zealands success as their own.
          Australia didn’t redeem themselves at all they saved face that’s about it.

          New Zealand has shocked world football to the core with that result!

          78 that’s where the AWs sit it’s nothing short of phenomenal, The world expected New Zealand to get absolutely thrashed in every single game oh how wrong they were.

          Many Australians believed that it was a disgrace to have to play the All Whites pre world cup, Look who’s sitting where now.

          • Roar Guru

            June 21st 2010 @ 7:02am
            Poth Ale said | June 21st 2010 @ 7:02am | ! Report

            As a lower ranked team, South Africa have done okay.

            • June 21st 2010 @ 9:49am
              Dan said | June 21st 2010 @ 9:49am | ! Report

              Sam ur a clown mate! The fact that we played a man down for the majority of the match and still got a result was a remarkable effort! Not the fact we were playing Ghana… and Adrian made this clear in his articule…”The grit and determination to grind out unexpected results against adversity (All Whites against the defending champs, Socceroos with a man down)”

          • June 21st 2010 @ 10:37am
            apaway said | June 21st 2010 @ 10:37am | ! Report

            Not sure where you’ve come from Socboy, but you say some pretty stupid things. “Many Australians believed it was a disgrace to play the All Whites pre World Cup.” What rubbish.

            Magnificent performance from the All Whites, and to be fair, deserved a column all of its own.

            • June 21st 2010 @ 11:20am
              Fisher Price said | June 21st 2010 @ 11:20am | ! Report

              There was huge criticism of the fixture even before it was officially confirmed.

            • June 21st 2010 @ 11:42am
              Carlos said | June 21st 2010 @ 11:42am | ! Report

              NZFA had to move heaven and earth to get the fixture. SA refused a number of requests in the hope of ‘more suitable’ opposition. When that didn’t materialise and the Kiwi’s kept begging it was agreed to. I’m sure it wasn’t the majority but there were a few comments on here bemoaning the NZ fixture as inadequate as well.

            • June 21st 2010 @ 1:36pm
              Socboy said | June 21st 2010 @ 1:36pm | ! Report

              I guess you haven’t been around the roar too long because you should have seen the comments in here,
              Also all this rubbish no one would turn up to the MCG either,

              You see that little search tool up the top right use it and you will find the thread and the crass comments made about NZ being unworthy or is that to hard to do because you may see what I have been saying is true!!!!

              Come on get your negativity out and attack me it’s ok I’m thick skinned unlike some people.

              I find it funny how I have become a target of Australian frustration maybe you should be directing it at your own team instead of trying to negate New Zealands achievements

          • June 21st 2010 @ 11:38am
            Carlos said | June 21st 2010 @ 11:38am | ! Report

            pull your head in socboy , I’m a Kiwi and you’re making us look bad fella; like a bunch of Arrogant Aussies or worse, Whinging Poms. The author clearly indicated kudos to the All Whites ; He wrote “This column was going to be exclusively about the Socceroos‘ gutsy performance against Ghana, but it would be remiss of me to ignore an even more impressive performance by the New Zealand All Whites to hold out defending champions Italy in the upset of the tournament”. It was a well balanced and heart-warming ANZAC spirited article, not a hint of Kiwi-bashing or denigration whatsoever. ‘Even more impressive…” he said. I can understand a certain desire to get payback for the OZ-NZ friendly and the non-red cards, and for the unwillingness to play us in the first place due to a lack of respect and for some of the gloating, ill-informed and ignorant comments on here after that game BUT , this case doesn’t warrant it. A little modesty and humility is the right response no matter how much your misguided mood screams ‘i told you so’.

            • June 21st 2010 @ 1:40pm
              Socboy said | June 21st 2010 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

              Od dear I didn’t realise one couldn’t have an opionion.

            • June 21st 2010 @ 2:07pm
              dasilva said | June 21st 2010 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

              Give me a break Socboy

              You come here and criticise everyone else opinion and when someone criticised your opinion

              You pulled out rubbish “Od dear I didn’t realise one couldn’t have an opionion.”

              No one saying that you shouldn’t have an opinion. We are just saying we strongly disagree with it.

              This article was praising New Zealand and even admitted that it was even a MORE impressive performance then the Socceroos

              What the hell more do you want

          • June 21st 2010 @ 3:28pm
            Roger said | June 21st 2010 @ 3:28pm | ! Report

            Socboy – you obviously have something against Australia and/or Australians. That’s fine, but do you need to contantly post this on the roar?

    • June 21st 2010 @ 7:07am
      proud kiwi said | June 21st 2010 @ 7:07am | ! Report

      Guess you have to let them try to rebuild some pride hats off to them for trying to regain some pride and are any of us surprised it is by piggy backing on the Kiwis of all the teams to compare themselves with would have to be taken as a positive that its us getting attention and that Australian eyes are peaking over the fence trying to work out what makes us so special and in a lot of the media articles they have it right the Kiwi X factor, and fantastic leadership from Coach and Captain and the knowledge that the whole of the Kiwi public is in behind them even our family as Rugby/Netball/Basketball/Volleyball players and fans and sitting on the sofa in the middle of the night watching what it means to be a team 14 individual players some not full time players, some with day jobs to pay the bills and not many bringing in huge $ including the coach but they go out there and fight for each other and for their coach and for their country yes their defense has been more impressive than their attack but they are showing guts that any true sports fan regardless of country they are from can’t help but admire David and Goliath stories , and the way our Guys have stepped up against a team like Italy deserves as much attention in the media world wide as possible which I will take as a positive.

      • June 21st 2010 @ 1:09pm
        AA said | June 21st 2010 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

        Australiia piggy backing off the Kiwi’s? Mate let’s get the Phoenix out of the A-League then, I’ll tell you who’s piggy backing who.

      • June 21st 2010 @ 5:28pm
        B.C Queenslander said | June 21st 2010 @ 5:28pm | ! Report

        proud kiwi, did you get taught about such things as sentences and paragraph’s at school?

        I was nearly blue in the face trying to finish reading your comment. Luckily I gave up the durries several years ago, so my lung capacity has improved sufficiently enough to be able to go long periods without breathing.

        Other less fit individuals might not have the same ability to hold their breath as myself and this may cause them to pass out, or even die when issued such a challenge as the one you have just laid down.

        For the sake of the wellbeing of other roarers, please consider sentences and paragraph’s in the future.

        As a lifelong knocker of many things Kiwi, ( all in good nature I might add) well done so far and may your world cup continue in the same vain.

        • June 21st 2010 @ 9:26pm
          Winston said | June 21st 2010 @ 9:26pm | ! Report

          try reading without actually speaking. its a handy skill to have

    • June 21st 2010 @ 9:10am
      eh said | June 21st 2010 @ 9:10am | ! Report

      do the maths. the mathS. not math. next you’ll be shaking your head and calling him girlfriend.

    • June 21st 2010 @ 10:22am
      El Diego said | June 21st 2010 @ 10:22am | ! Report

      yea NZ played the sexiest football ever seen.

      • June 21st 2010 @ 1:16pm
        AA said | June 21st 2010 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

        LOL El Diego.

    • June 21st 2010 @ 11:30am
      AA said | June 21st 2010 @ 11:30am | ! Report

      Sam, at the World Cup, who gives a stuf about FIFA rankings. You play who you are drawn against.

      In saying that, Adrian, we don’t want to be compared to the Kiwi’s, we are playing in a different group to them at the World Cup, under different circumstances.

      If ou look at the NZ-Italy game, Italy played them off the park after that early goal. The result went NZ’s way but not the FOOTBALL played. Key difference.

      • June 21st 2010 @ 6:50pm
        Campbell Watts said | June 21st 2010 @ 6:50pm | ! Report

        So the WC winner gets decided on the FOOTBALL played does it AA?

        Talk around it all you like but the fact stands the AW’s just drew with the reigning world champs!
        Big respect boys! Well done!

    • June 21st 2010 @ 10:49pm
      Bob said | June 21st 2010 @ 10:49pm | ! Report

      Well done to the AW’s but beat it Sam! If you don’t know a compliment when it slaps you in the face, you never will

  • June 21st 2010 @ 5:32am
    Mega said | June 21st 2010 @ 5:32am | ! Report

    Opening para – “even more impressive performance by the New Zealand All Whites”

  • June 21st 2010 @ 6:38am
    AussieWallaby said | June 21st 2010 @ 6:38am | ! Report

    Sam – this Italian team is a far cry from the one that lifted the trophy in 2006. It is surprising that Paraguay didn’t win their game..
    Again its a draw through an offside goal which has been allowed….
    Paraguay and Italy will still qualify from this pool……
    For the record, this pool has to be the easiest of the lot….other than Paraguay the rest of the teams have been shocking.

    • June 21st 2010 @ 6:48am
      Socboy said | June 21st 2010 @ 6:48am | ! Report

      What an arrogant and insular little comment to make and nothing less expected from someone such as your self.

    • June 21st 2010 @ 7:08am
      katzilla said | June 21st 2010 @ 7:08am | ! Report

      ‘other than Paraguay the rest of the teams have been shocking.’
      Actually the team ranked 40+ places lower then the others is also playing well to not be demolished.
      This Italian team is almost the same team as the last world cup albeit a little older, slower and over rated – much like the Soccerwhos. Try harder troll.

    • June 21st 2010 @ 7:10am
      proud kiwi said | June 21st 2010 @ 7:10am | ! Report

      lol …. if thats the case lucky us

    • June 21st 2010 @ 7:45am
      Hayden said | June 21st 2010 @ 7:45am | ! Report

      AussieWallaby – I understand your pain. Your rugby team just got beaten by, to quote Spiro, a team “Built like darts players”, and the Socceroos are being upstaged by a team some Australian commentators thought didn’t deserve to be there in the first place. Italy may or may not be be a shadow of the team of four years ago, but they are ranked considerably higher than anyone the Socceroos have managed to put a goal past so far.

    • June 21st 2010 @ 9:52am
      DaMan3000 said | June 21st 2010 @ 9:52am | ! Report

      Wasn’t an offside goal.

  • June 21st 2010 @ 7:26am
    Joe said | June 21st 2010 @ 7:26am | ! Report

    Lads ( I’m a kiwi) let’s show a little modesty in our great win.

    • June 21st 2010 @ 7:55am
      Hayden said | June 21st 2010 @ 7:55am | ! Report

      A good start would be by remembering it was actually a draw.

      • June 21st 2010 @ 9:35am
        Kidney said | June 21st 2010 @ 9:35am | ! Report

        LOL. Comment of the day there.

      • June 21st 2010 @ 9:52am
        DaMan3000 said | June 21st 2010 @ 9:52am | ! Report

        It was a WIN!

    • June 21st 2010 @ 11:43am
      Carlos said | June 21st 2010 @ 11:43am | ! Report

      On ya Joe, got to agree, it’s not our go.

  • June 21st 2010 @ 7:34am
    katzilla said | June 21st 2010 @ 7:34am | ! Report

    Just a quick question to someone who may know about these things.
    What happens if both of the last games in this pool end up the with the same drawing score? say 1-1 0-0?
    NZ and Italy will end up on the same points with the same goal diff and goals scored.
    Someone on the BBC website mentioned a coin flip? That would be insane, but if you’d have asked me before the tournament if we’d take a coin flip to make the 16 then I would have agreed, even a roll of the dice with 1 NZ number on it would have been a viable option.
    Its not too far fetched to consider a draw against Paraguay, relative to how we did against Italy.
    Does anyone know what happens in this situation and whether its happened before?

  • June 21st 2010 @ 8:41am
    punter said | June 21st 2010 @ 8:41am | ! Report

    Well done to the Kiwis. A draw against a world power like Italy in a World Cup match is as big a result as any in the history of NZ football.

    Just stay on the high & enjoy it. I was very happy to see this result this morning (I’m a Aussie).

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