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Italian lessons for All Whites

opinion

By Michael Burgess

Published: 4:03PM Friday June 12, 2009 Source: ONE Sport

The narrow 4-3 loss to World Champions Italy on Thursday was certainly a shock result. tvnz.co.nz looks at some of the lessons learned...

Chris and Shane: A killer combination
There was some interest in how Chris Killen and Shane Smeltz would fare on the pitch together and the early evidence is promising. The duo scored three goals between them against the notoriously stingy Italians and seemed to strike up a good understanding.

Speed wobbles on defence
The All Whites sans Ryan Nelsen will always struggle defensively. The team defended manfully for large periods of the game but upon sober reflection on Friday Ricki Herbert and his coaching staff will be disappointed with the 'soft' nature of at least three of the Italian goals.

Experience does count
You can't beat top-level experience. Defender Ivan Vicelich has been recently confined to the relative football backwater of the NZFC with Auckland City but gave an assured performance at the heart of the New Zealand defence. Vicelich spent almost a decade in the Dutch league and still has pedigree.

Class usually prevails
Andreas Pirlo is one best midfielders in the world and Vincente Iaquinta certainly one of the top strikers. Their introduction turned the match as the New Zealanders couldn't counter the quickness of pass and speed of movement.

Getting some perspective
Almost every player in the Italian squad is worth more individually on the open market than the entire All Whites squad, which illustrates the gulf in class. Sure the New Zealanders were perhaps taking the game more seriously than the Europeans but there are a lot of positives to take away for Ricki Herbert and his men.

What happened to Catenaccio?
Italian teams are famous for their cagey defending and are notoriously difficult to score against. But the Italy seemed to represent the Shaky Island on Thursday, conceding three and it could have been more.

It is a team in transition and the best goalkeeper in the world was being rested. His replacement had the sort of performance not seen since David "Calamity" James and his Anfield nightmares in the late 90's.

Future implications
The All Whites will no longer be able to fly under the radar at this Confederations Cup and Spain, South Africa and Iraq will be well aware of the threat they pose, especially from set pieces. No one knows how seriously the Italians took the game but for New Zealand there are only positive aspects to take away.

Top level sport is all about building confidence and combinations and with every assured performance Ricki Herbert's outfit can take more of both into the all-important world cup qualifiers come October and November.

So what will happen in the Cup?
Not much has changed here . The Spanish are said to be privately targeting a 4-0 victory on Monday and given the attacking riches at their disposal and fluid style of play it is certainly more than possible. The All Whites will set their own goals based on credibility, respect and improving their performance from the one against Italy.

Kiwi optimists will hope for a point against South Africa and then it is all up for grabs in the last group game against Iraq, who seem to be undoubtedly the minnows of the tournament.

ONE Sport and tvnz.co.nz bring you coverage of the 2009 Confederations Cup. To find out how you can watch the All Whites matches and the final free to air click HERE