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Group F could open up on Sunday.

Kick-Off: Sunday, June 20, 16:00 CET.
Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit.
Mixed Response

Italy's 1-1 draw with Paraguay in their opening game of the 2010 World Cup sparked mixed response. Starting a World Cup campaign with a draw is not necessarily the ideal way to begin an adventure especially if you are the defending champions, but the Azzurri's performance was encouraging.

The Italy midfield largely over-ran the Paraguay midfield and indeed there was no lack of energy or enthusiasm. Moreover, although the 2006 world champions conceded the first goal of the match, they didn't look particularly awful at the back and did maintain composure and held their line.

However, Marcello Lippi's side miserably failed in front of the opposition's goal and also lacked a creative player who could connect the midfield to the attack. Against New Zealand on Sunday, Lippi will attempt to bridge this gap but whether he would have the personnel to do so remains to be seen.

On paper the All Whites are no match for the Azzurri but given the Kiwis' marvellous 1-1 draw with Slovakia in their opening game of the group, Italy should prepare for a hard, energetic battle on Sunday.

Glory Glory All Whites

Most observers wouldn't shy away from stating that New Zealand are at the World Cup to make up the numbers. Indeed, had Australia not joined the Asian Football Confederation, then New Zealand would likely not have qualified for South Africa 2010.

Nevertheless, New Zealand are here and if their opening game performance against Slovakia is anything to go by, then they should be a tough match for both Italy and Paraguay. On Sunday Ricki Herbert's side are up against the defending world champions: a defeat isn't unexpected but the All Whites will be up for an upset.

The injury time equaliser against Slovakia exhibited New Zealand's never-say-die spirit and their reluctance to allow the Europeans to dominate them in the game proved their mettle and willingness to fight. It was also their first ever point at a World Cup finals.



FORM GUIDE

Italy

June 14: Italy 1-1 Paraguay (World Cup)

June 5: Switzerland 1-1 Italy (Friendly)

June 3: Italy 1-2 Mexico (Friendly)

March 3: Italy 0-0 Cameroon (Friendly)

November 18: Italy 1-0 Sweden (Friendly)


New Zealand

June 15: New Zealand 1-1 Slovakia (World Cup)

June 9: Chile 2-0 New Zealand (Friendly)

June 4: Slovenia 3-1 New Zealand (Friendly)

May 29: New Zealand 1-0 Serbia (Friendly)

May 24: Australia 2-1 New Zealand (Friendly)



TEAM NEWS

Italy

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is out for an indefinite period of time with a herniated disc, implying that Federico Marchetti will be between the sticks for the Azzurri. Midfielder Andrea Pirlo will be out too with a calf injury. Giampaolo Pazzini and Antonio Di Natale could be slotted into the first XI, although recent reports suggest that Lippi will retain the same starting berth but in a 4-4-2 formation.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Marchetti; Zambrotta, Cannavaro, Chiellini, Criscito; Pepe, De Rossi, Montolivo, Marchisio; Iaquinta, Gilardino

New Zealand

Midfielder Tim Brown is back in training after recovering from a broken shoulder and could start against Italy, although there are suggestions that for safety measures he will start from the bench on Sunday. However, Glen Moss is suspended.

Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Paston; Reid, Nelson, Smith; Bertos, Elliott, Vicelich, Lochhead; Killen, Fallon, Smeltz


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Daniele De Rossi (Italy)

The Roma midfielder scored the equaliser against Paraguay in their last game and was an important presence in the midfield. Marcello Lippi's side do not have a very good attackline but De Rossi's influence in the middle of the park does make them more competent.

Winston Reid (New Zealand)

The Kiwi defender had a great game against Slovakia as he stood strong at the back and held the fortress well. He scored the equaliser against the Europeans in injury time and indeed he will be buoyed to carry on the momentum and stay strong against the defending world champions.


PREDICTION

On paper New Zealand are the underdogs but they showed against Slovakia in their opening game of the World Cup that they do have the potential to create an upset. However, the Castrol World Cup match predictor gives the All Whites just a 9% chance of winning the match while Italy are given a 72% chance; a draw is put at 19%. Indeed, an Azzurri victory is expected but it should be a narrow one.

Italy 1-0 New Zealand

Who will come out on top? Check out Castrol Football's 2010 World Cup Match Predictor.

The 2010 World Cup is finally upon us, so keep up to date with all the news at Goal.com's World Cup homepage and join Goal.com USA's Facebook fan page!

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