World champions Italy suffered an embarrassing 1-1 draw with underdogs New Zealand in their second World Cup Group F match on Sunday, a result which complicates their chances of progressing to the knockout stage. New Zealand, ranked 78th in the world, took a shock lead on seven minutes after struggling Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro made a hash of trying to clear a free kick into the box and Shane Smeltz poked home.
Italy had talked all week about the difficulties an unchanged New Zealand would pose from dead balls but they did not deal with the danger even if there was a slight suspicion of offside.
Coach Marcello Lippi stationed himself at the edge of his technical area with a worried look and his team increased the tempo with Riccardo Montolivo striking the post from distance before they levelled on 29 minutes. Daniele De Rossi tumbled in the box under pressure from Tommy Smith as a cross came over and Vincenzo Iaquinta calmly slotted in the debateable spotkick.
Italy pushed for a second with Montolivo's fierce shot one of a number of efforts but they never looked convincing.
"It was amazing. It wasn't pretty, they (the New Zealand team) showed so much determination and guts," New Zealand captain Ryan Nelsen said.
Nelsen described the Italian penalty as a "ridiculous call" and New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert also questioned some of the decisions of referee Carlos Batres.
Italian coach Marcello Lippi noted it was the second time in the tournament his team had conceded a goal from a long free kick. "Certainly it's not the will of the lads that is missing but a bit of fluidity. We hit post and had chances but we created little really," he said.
The holders employed a 4-4-2 formation from the start rather than the 4-2-3-1 from Monday's 1-1 draw with Paraguay and then threw on three attacking substitutes as darkness fell but New Zealand dealt with the threat reasonably comfortably.
Italy, who wore black armbands following the death of 1968 European Championship winner Roberto Rosato, meet Slovakia in their final group game on Thursday at Johannesburg's Ellis Park needing a handsome win to definitely progress.