All Whites v Italy: And the Oscars go to...

If the World Cup is a stage, Italian footballers are clearly the best actors.

With the New Zealand style of play, it was always going to be a bruising, physical contest.

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.

But just as in world cups past, the Italians lived up to their hard-earned reputation for hard-knocking "catenaccio" defenders whacking anything that came near the 18-yard box, and faltering forwards flapping around in the opposition area.

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.

First it was Fabio Cannavaro on 20 minutes, flailing around on the floor clutching his chest following contact from Killen.

Then it was the turn of Giorgio Chiellini four minutes later, rolling around beating the ground in pain after a challenge by Fallon.

And then the penalty on 31 minutes. Although Tommy Smith grabbed the shirt of Daniele De Rossi, the dive for the resulting spot-kick would have made American swimmer Michael Phelps blush.

Not satisfied with his first Oscar entry, De Rossi rolled about again seven minutes later following a challenge by Killen.

The pre-match predictions were that it would be men against boys. All Whites fans would question who those terms should refer to.

- NZ HERALD STAFF

- NZ Herald

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