BfB Goes To The World Cup 2010 (Without leaving the front room)

Pak Doo Ik.

Don’t say it loud in Italy. The North Korean who scored the winning goal when the tiny Asian side beat the Europeans in 1966 has written his name in Italian folklore as the man who caused the biggest shock in Calico history.

Ahn Jung Hwan.

You can probably say the name of the South Korean who knocked the Azzuri out of the 2002 World Cup but it probably would not be advisable. The Italians do not take to the idea of being shocked very well preferring – if the must go out – to be besting in a battle of giants. They don’t like David, and like his slingshot even less.

So going into a game with New Zealand it is not just that a win is expected it is that the mindset is that it will not occur. Pak Doo Ik himself is not the problem but what he represents. The abominable. Not just unexpected but – in the public mind – unworthy, inglorious defeat.

One cannot imagine the reaction in Rome when Shane Smeltz runs behind Fabio Cannavaro and gets on the end of Winston Reid’s flick on and – from a massively offside position – puts the ball past reserve keeper Federico Marchetti but probably it was more surprise than anger.

New Zealand’s seventh minutes goal – another result of good delivery – is to be defended and soon after Mark Paston is clawing away a chance that flashes in and central defender Giorgio Chiellini is putting the ball a foot over the bar having been found at a corner by Cannavaro’s head.

New Zealand play a physical game matching and bettering the Europeans who give the impression of being massively wronged falling under any pressure. Rory Fallon is booked early after jumping with his elbows loose but the Italians cry wolf and a team who falls so often one can not trust to have been felled.

With New Zealand sitting deep there is acres of land for the Italians to roam into with Gianluca Zambrotta coming forward to hit a shot rising past Paston’s goal and as exciting as that is to watch Referee Carlos Batres is soon trying to decided between foul and fair when Chiellini falls under Fallon’s attentions once more. The defender too an arm to the cheek, he holds his mouth.

The Italians are beauty and the beast. Riccardo Montolivo hits a wonderfully curved shot from long range that pings off the post beating Paston all ends up. Daniele De Rossi is having his shirt tugged in the box by Tommy Smith when a cross comes over and flops to the floor. The Italians had two ways to get back into the match and one was to show the skill and flair they are known for.

They took the other.

Vincenzo Iaquinta scores the penalty and one can not help but wish that Montolivo or Zambrotta had smashed a shot in from range. There is a clarity as to why the Italians are not used to losing and it is found in the way the football culture places equal importance on the slight of hand as it does skills with the ball.

Italy continue to press for the second goal which seems set to come but the best they muster is a powerful drive by De Rossi which is pushed away by Paston while New Zealand as an attacking force are negligible breaking down the right with Reid only to see the Italian strength push them aside easily.

The surprise at half time is that the Italians have not taken the lead although they have not spurned clear cut chances and while the first goal was offside, the second was not crafted so much as crafty.

The second half and New Zealand come out more not determined to get a goal but keen to make sure the game is played further up the field in the next forty five minutes with Fallon running tirelessly and Chris Killen harrying the Italian defenders as they try play forward. Play forward they do and with every moment more siege is laid to the Kiwi’s goal.

The Italians send in crosses which test the agility of Mark Paston and the keeper commands his box well with the assistance of the stalwart defensive pair of Reid and Ryan Nelsen with the latter putting in as sturdy a display as he would have dreamed of last night.

Indeed much of the New Zealand performance went as they could have hoped. Fallon exited the field without the red card that Cannavaro and Chiellini seemed determined to get him – as a man who would be put forward as the best player in the world one has a right to expect better from Cannavaro – and his replacement Chris Wood proved mobile and strong right until the end.

The end of the game came without further scoring much of which was down to Paston and his three saves from long range afford with one strong hand to a guided missile from Zambrotta which will rank as one of the highlights of the tournament. Di Rossi played a silky sixty yard pass to Iaquinta who had Smith pull the ball off his toe.

Smith’s intervention reminds one of how for all the efforts from distance Italy failed to penetrate the Kiwi backline and how ill deserved the equaliser was. A high ball that no one would get to and a player taking advantage of a tug has prevented defeat of Korean proportions which is hardly the stuff of World Champions.

The moment though. Nine minutes left and eighteen year old Chris Wood slips around the back of Cannavaro and hits a shot with his left foot from the left hand side of the box. It has not power been seems accurate. Marchetti dives for it as it fades and slides wide of the post.

Turns out there is only one Pak Doo Ik.

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