I have not talked a lot about sport on this blog, especially my passion for football and my lifelong love/hate relationship with Newcastle United. First up, its not that kind of blog and secondly there's always the danger I will sound like one of those bores who rings up Radio Sport.

So I have resisted writing anything about the hysterical media over- reaction to New Zealand's 1-1 draw with Slovakia.

But I can resist it no more.

Yesterday I heard defender Tommy Smith say that he thought New Zealand could beat Italy. Smith plays for Ipswich Town which managed to avoid relegation from the English First Division.

Today the media was informing me that Italy would be 'nervous' about their chances against New Zealand

What a load of nonsense.

New Zealand is rated around 78th in the world. Italy are the world champions. New Zealand's squad play for clubs like the Wellington Phoenix. Some players don't even have a club. The Italian squad consists of players who play for the likes of AC Milan and Juventus.

Yes, I'm sure the Italians are quaking in their boots.

But our local media seem intent on raising expectations about the All Whites chances to unrealistic levels.

All this hoopla has been based on a somewhat fortunate draw with Slovakia.

In the rush to see who can be the most empty-headed cheerleader, the media have entirely ignored that New Zealand played poorly against a mediocre Slovakia and barely troubled their goalkeeper all day.

The have also conveniently forgotten that it was the game against Slovakia that the All Whites had targeted as the one they could realistically win.

The New Zealand goal, when it came, was more fortuitous than anything else. On another day that cross would have sailed harmlessly over the goal.

The Slovakian manager, perhaps displaying his inexperience,aided and abetted the New Zealand cause by inexplicably deciding to close up shop for the day. Instead of allowing his team to charge on for a knockout second goal he withdrew his most potent attackers and replaced them with defensive midfielders.

The All Whites should be satisfied it got its first point in a World Cup but its wishful thinking that it can beat either Italy or Paraguay.

I predict that Italy and the dangerous Paraguay will comfortably beat New Zealand.

And both the All Whites themselves and the media will have to share the blame for raising the public's expectations to such a degree that the defeats will come as crushing disappointments.

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  1. Totally agree Steve.

    The All Whites have an almost fanatical obcession with the long ball - they don't seem to realise that booting the ball up the field only gives away pocession. I was hopeful Ricky Herbert would be the man to break this tradition, but I'll have to keep waiting.

    What the match revealed is that the basics of the game are still missing. The All Whites at times struggle to shoot, trap, cross and even put together 3 passes. While Herbert may have achieved credibility at home, he certainly hasn't given the rest of Group F anything to worry about.

    The media would be better advised examining the World's top teams and asking why it is we're not playing like them.

  2. Dunno about that, I think Slovakia will be as hard a game as Italy will be. Skrtel kept Fallon out of the game as he's a big bustling defender, while Italy's defense is nothing to be sneezed at, I think they won't have the height to combat Fallon - our best attacking weapon via a long ball. Same applies to Paraguay who's defenders lack height. But Paraguay will attack us with fast passing and quick running and could put in 4-5 goals. Italy on the other hand are a bit slower and may not be as attacking.
    Having said that, I'm not stupid....Italy could belt us, just wouldn't be surprised if we run both those teams close.
    Remember these teams are not used to playing against a kick and chase team, no matter how unskilled and ugly it is, it can be hard for superstars to adjust

  3. Italy, from what I've seen of them, play a more measured game. They build up from the back then pounce.

    This style might suit NZ more but it'll take more than hopeful long balls to unlock the Italian defence

    Paraguay are very quick and I think they will simply run NZ off its feet - a little like Mexico did in that friendly a few weeks ago when they won 4-0.

    Incidentally the way the group is shaping up, it could well be goal difference that decides who wins the group.

    Since the second-ranked team is likely going to have to play the Netherlands in the next round, it would be to Italy's advantage to knock up a big score against NZ.

  4. "Incidentally the way the group is shaping up, it could well be goal difference that decides who wins the group.... it would be to Italy's advantage to knock up a big score against NZ."

    Thats true, if Paraguay beat Slovakia by a few goals, then the Italians will know they have to rack up a few goals to even up the for and against, this is assuming (as everyone does) that Paraguay will beat us on Friday. If Slovakia win or it is a draw, then the Italians will know two wins will give them top spot regardless of the number of goals, so 1-0 would suffice tonight.
    Perhaps the Par v Slo match is too close to the Ita v NZ game to allow it to influence the Italian's strategy.
    Green Tea is right that NZ don't have the passing game, we simply aren't good enough, but a long donk to Fallon's head is still a potent weapon, especially with two runners coming off him. Long balls defiantly won't win leagues, they won't win cups either, but when the class gap is that great, its a chance in a one off match.
    What doesn't help is taking a defender from Auckland City FC and placing him into the midfield in a world cup. I don't think I saw him make one forward pass to feet against Slovakia. I wouldn't even have Vicelich on the bench. Much prefer Christie or McGlinchey.
    I think the score will be a reflection on Italy's intent rather than anything else, if they put out a few quick players and attack us we are gone by 3 or 4, if they don't, we could be lucky enough to get a draw. There's been more upsets so far than there has been 3+ goal wins.


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