Iaquinta brace spares Italian blushes
© AFP

A second-half double from Juventus striker Vincenzo Iaquinta gave world champions Italy a nervy 4-3 victory over New Zealand in a FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009 warm-up match at Super Stadium on Wednesday. The 'All Whites' stunned Marcelo Lippi's men by taking a 2-1 half-time lead, and seemed on course for an astonishing victory when Celtic striker Chris Killen's penalty put them 3-2 up on 57 minutes.

However, Iaquinta, one of a spate of second-half substitutions, had other ideas, netting twice in the final half-hour to spare Italian blushes ahead of their first Cup game against the United States in Pretoria on Monday. Ranked 82nd in the world, New Zealand put on a brave display and consistently troubled Italy from set pieces.

Ricki Herbert's men face European champions Spain in their opening match on Sunday. Lippi made six changes to the side that beat Northern Ireland 3-0 in Pisa last Saturday. Davide Santon, Alessandro Gamberini and Nicolas Legrottaglie continued in defence, Gennaro Gattuso captained the side from midfield and Giuseppe Rossi was up front, this time alongside Fiorentina's Alberto Gilardino.

It was a second-string 'Azzurri' with FIFA World Cup™ winners like Luca Toni, Andrea Pirlo and Fabio Grosso on the bench and Fabio Cannavaro rested. Nevertheless, Italy were expected to cruise past the 'All Whites'. Instead, Herbert's team more than held their own and took the lead after just 13 minutes when Shane Smeltz rose to head home a Leo Bertos free kick.

Italy's class did eventually show with a stunning equaliser. Simone Pepe's glorious crossfield pass found Fabio Quagliarella surging down the left wing, and his cross was headed coolly home by Gilardino. New Zealand refused to lie down and grabbed a second from another set piece, as Bertos swung in one of nine corners forced by the Oceania champions and Killen rose unmarked to head home.

Italy threw on Pirlo for Rossi after the break and grabbed an equaliser on 48 minutes. Again Quagliarella crossed, and again Gilardino headed in.

Parity was shortlived as Killen won a penalty after being brought down by Italy goalkeeper Marco Amelia just nine minutes later and the Celtic striker dusted himself down and slotted in the penalty.

Lippi made a spate of substitutions and one of those, Iaquinta, raced clear of the New Zealand defence to make it 3-3 on 68 minutes.

And he struck again five minutes later, steering home after Glenn Moss had parried Ricardo Montolivo's shot.