Michael Brown at the World Cup
Michael Brown blogs from the Fifa World Cup

Soccer: Smeltz toe-poke will live long in his memory

By Michael Brown

Shane Smeltz has scored some spectacular goals in his time but, while this wasn't one of them, none have meant as much as the one that helped the All Whites secure a point against Italy yesterday.

The 28-year-old is a two-time A-League Golden Boot winner and in 2009 he was awarded the Johnny Warren medal for the A-League's best player.

He banged in a record 19 goals for Gold Coast United in the past Australian season and internationally he has an impressive tally of 17 goals in 32 internationals. Most strikers dream of a goal every second game.

There have been long, curling efforts, powerful headers and clever finishes when he beats a defender. But Smeltz admits the one that will last longest in the memory is a toe-poke from five yards against the four-time World Cup winners.

"That's probably the greatest goal of my career," he said. "It's certainly not the prettiest goal but it means the most. To say you have scored at a World Cup is fantastic, especially against Italy."

There was an element of controversy to it but not nearly as much as Italy's reply, when Daniele De Rossi earned his side a penalty from a calculated fall that would have impressed the Chinese Olympic dive squad.

Smeltz was offside when Winston Reid flicked on a Simon Elliott free-kick. Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro couldn't clear the danger, and Smeltz ghosted in behind to stab the ball home.

While the Azzurri might complain about the nature of New Zealand's goal, it is entirely different to Italy's reply. It's one thing to be the beneficiaries of a mistake from the officials, it's another to deliberately try to deceive them in the way De Rossi did.

"I just remember trying to get on the end of a flick-on and I did, which was great," Smeltz said. "The referee and linesman didn't see it [as offside] which is good enough for me.

"I'm obviously delighted to score. It was probably just a little bit too early to score. We had a lot of work to do after that. But I'm pleased for every one of my teammates. We have put in a hell of a lot of hard work and it's paying off at the moment."

Smeltz seems to have added another dimension to his game. He is clearly a notable goal scorer but he delivered the excellent cross for Winston Reid's dramatic header against Slovakia and has created openings for teammates that others might normally lay on for him.

- NZ Herald

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