Chris Rattue at the World Cup

Herald writer Chris Rattue blogs from the Fifa World Cup

Soccer: All Whites lose element of surprise for Italian job

By Chris Rattue in Johannesburg

All Whites captain Ryan Nelsen says the Italy will not be taking his side lightly. Photo / Brett Phibbs
All Whites captain Ryan Nelsen says the Italy will not be taking his side lightly. Photo / Brett Phibbs

All White captain Ryan Nelsen says the side has lost a key advantage, the surprise factor, for their remaining World Cup matches.

Coach Ricki Herbert has retained the starting lineup used in the historic draw against Slovakia for tomorrow morning's match against World Cup holders Italy.

The team held a captain's run at the 41,000 capacity stadium in Nelspruit, a four hour drive from Johannesburg, after which Nelsen said his side was no longer flying under the tournament radar because of the result against Slovakia.

"The big thing for us is that people underestimated us," said Nelsen.

"The Italians now understand they have got a big game on their hands.

"All the teams would have looked at us as their banker but now they know they have to play well to beat us.

"That is now one of the things going against us."

Nelsen joked that his players would be "absolutely petrified" in this mammoth match against Italy then set the record straight.

"I've said to the New Zealand media that the biggest pressure we have ever faced was in the qualifier against Bahrain, in front of our own fans, a packed house, a must win," he said.

"You saw against Slovakia that none of them were worried - it could be Italy, Brazil, the greatest team in the history of sport.

"These guys are confident in who they are and the preparation. I can't speak for everyone but I don't think nerves will come into it."

Herbert said: "There's probably a bit of pressure on now...the Prime Minister turning up.

"The team will be up for it."

Herbert said Tim Brown, back from a shoulder fracture and operation, was not quite at 100 per cent yet but he didn't rule him out as a substitute possibility.

"The Paraguay game is a more realistic target," said Herbert.

Nelsen scoffed at suggestions that New Zealand had nothing to lose.

"I think that saying we have nothing to lose is a week bit reckless.

"We've got a game to lose. We've prepared as well as we can and have put our sevles in a very good position."

All Whites
Mark Paston; Winston Reid, Ryan Nelsen (c), Tommy Smith; Leo Bertos, Simon Elliott, Ivan Vicelich, Tony Lochhead; Shane Smetlz, Rory Fallon, Chris Killen.

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