A 1-1 draw against the world champions of falling the fuck over. A hard-fought draw against the leading exponents of taking a dive. A shared World Cup point—only New Zealand’s second ever-- against the undisputed masters of milking a penalty.
And frankly, that’s all the Italians had to show for themselves in ninety-five minutes of soccer: twenty-five ham-fisted Hollywoods and seven shots on target, all but one of which New Zealand resisted.
That’s got to be goddamn good for the sport! And goddamned fantastic for New Zealand!
PS: And it made ‘em go awfully quiet in Gina’s Pizzeria, I can tell you.
Some reaction from round the world:
- ESPN: All Whites shock champs
“The biggest result in New Zealand's football history. They were immense.”
- TEAM TALK: Heroes of the Day:
Step forward the mighty All Whites of New Zealand, who were outstanding in their 1-1 draw with reigning world champions Italy in Nelspruit.
- IRISH TIMES: Champions upended by minnows
“Defending champions Italy have been held to an embarrassing draw by an extraordinarily industrious New Zealand side…”
- (UK) TELEGRAPH: New Zealand shine to claim notable point
“Italy dominated a compelling Group F contest thereafter but could not find a way past outstanding goalkeeper Mark Paston.”
- CBS: Italy 1-1 New Zealand
“The New Zealand defence led by Ryan Nelsen and goalkeeper Mark Paston deserve much of the plaudits for keeping the world champions out. Meanwhile New Zealand coach Herbert, who claimed last week's draw against Slovakia to be the best result in their history, has another major scalp to add to his list.”
- ASSOCIATED PRESS: Italy held to stunning 1-1 draw by N. Zealand
”At the final whistle, however, the celebration was located in one corner of the Mbombela Stadium, where a small section of New Zealand fans marked their country's historic result by taking off their shirts and waving them around deliriously. ‘I'm very very proud,’ coach Ricki Herbert said. ‘We knew we'd be up against it, but we had great resilience and stayed organized.’”
- GATHER.COM: New Zealand Stuns Italy With 1-1 Draw
“In one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history, unheralded New Zealand has worked Italy to a 1-1 draw.”
- THE ROAR: All Whites: What a story!
”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.”
- BELFAST TELEGRAPH: Italy held to shock 1-1 draw by N. Zealand
”A controversial Vincenzo Iaquinta penalty spared champions Italy from World Cup embarrassment against minnows New Zealand this afternoon.”
- GOAL.COM: World Cup 2010: Italy 1-1 New Zealand -
“ Group F minnows hold defending champions in another shock result. Holders in danger of early exit after draw...”
- YAHOO EUROSPORT: Tiny New Zealand defy Italy
- Comment in NEW YORK TIMES: Great result for NZ; Red faces for the Azzurri
”New Zealand, which earned its first-ever World Cup point with a tie in its opening game, adds its second against the defending world champions. It’s hard to underestimate how stunning the result really is: the teams are divided by about 70 places in the FIFA rankings, with New Zealand behind the likes of Uganda and Panama.”
- GUARDIAN: New Zealand hold defending champions Italy to a draw
”…though New Zealand did their share of dogged defending they created at least as much as their opponents did in terms of opportunities to win the match.”
- THE SUN: Sweet Smeltz of Success
“The All Whites came under increasing pressure as the clock ticked down but Paston stood firm to ensure they claimed a famous result.”
UPDATE 1: Glad to see a few others felt as sick as I did at all the blue jerseys rolling around on the grass clutching parts of their anatomy.
NZ captain Ryan Nelsen called the Italian propensity to fall on the ground at the first sign of contact “a joke,” and the referee who rewarded the crybabies with over two-dozen free kicks for the ploy, including the penalty by which they equalised, a chap overawed by Italy’s apparent star power.
The Monsters and Critics website sums up some related reaction with this headline: Italy's Hollywood stars and referee roasted in New Zealand:
Italy's theatrical footballers, and Guatemala referee Carlos Batres, who fell for their acts, were roasted by New Zealand sports writers reporting their country's 1-1 draw in the World Cup.
'Make no bones about it - Italy, winners of four World Cup crowns - cheated to get back into the game' after New Zealand opened the scoring, wrote Tony Smith, on the Stuff news website.
He said the referee fell 'for the worst dive of the World Cup by the most theatrical Italian since (director) Federico Fellini,' when Daniele De Rossi flopped to the ground in the New Zealand penalty area alleging he had been pushed by defender Tommy Smith.
'Smith had had a little tug of De Rossi's blue shirt, but he'd let go long before the Italian floundered on the floor,' he wrote, dubbing it an act unworthy of a world champion.
New Zealand captain Ryan Nelsen told New Zealand Herald writer Michael Brown: 'The penalty was ridiculous. Even De Rossi was laughing to me. He couldn't believe he (the referee) had given it.'
Nelsen said he thought the referee 'got stars in his eyes' because the Italians were the world champions. 'The referee just buckled. If he's the best that FIFA offer up, then, gee whizz, I would hate to see the worst. It was very sad to see. He ruined the game.
'For me, FIFA have to start looking after the game for guys who are diving and guys looking for fouls. They have to look at guys who are faking or conning the referee.'
Smith wrote that it added salt to a raw wound that De Rossi won the Man of the Match award.
'What a joke. If a team ranked fifth in the world has to resort to deception to subdue a side ranked 78th, then what hope is there for the World Cup?'
Brown wrote: 'Every team is culpable of 'simulation', as it's known in official circles, but some countries are better than others. The Italians are masters of the dark art and milked it as every opportunity this morning.'
Another report on the Herald's website said, 'If the World Cup is a stage, Italian footballers are clearly the best actors.
'Every time forwards Rory Fallon or Chris Killen came within three feet of the ball, the nearest Italian player clutched a part of their body, grimacing in pain.
'Azzuri players littered the field at Nelspruit in several histrionic retakes of the 'dying swan', as they traded knocks with All Whites players in the hustle and bustle of the group F match.'
The “dying swan” is one reason soccer generally turns me off. It nearly turned me off again last night.
UPDATE 2: Sydney Morning Herald gets it right: Italian theatrics cost New Zealand famous win over defending champions Italy
Central American referee Carlos Batres has fallen for the worst dive of the World Cup by the most theatrical Italian since Federico Fellini. By doing so, he cost New Zealand's All Whites a famous win over football's reigning world champions … Make no bones about it - Italy, winners of four World Cup crowns, cheated to get back into the game.
“Smith had had a little tug of De Rossi's blue shirt but he'd let go long before the Italian floundered on the floor. Only one person in Mbombela Stadium fell for the risible ruse - referee Batres who pointed to the penalty spot. Adding salt to a raw wound, De Rossi won the man of the match award. What a joke.”