On paper, this should really be a mismatch. Italy, reigning world champions, against a team ranked 74 places below them, beneath the likes of Uganda and Panama, in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. Fortunately, football matches are not decided on paper, and New Zealand go into this match level on points – and goal difference – with the mighty Azzurri. The odds will be slim on them ending the day in such a privileged position, but having already made history, this All Whites side can set about causing a sensation unburdened by pressure.
Italy-New Zealand, Group F, Nelspruit, Sunday 20 June, 16.00 (local time)
The Italians are notoriously slow starters at major competitions, but even the most dedicated Azzurri fan must have been fretting when their team – already 1-0 down to Paraguay – returned for the second half without Gianluigi Buffon. However, while Buffon’s back injury, which will keep him sidelined against the Kiwis, was undoubtedly a blow, Italy recovered their composure in the second half to claim a deserved 1-1 draw. With an identical result in Group F's other match leaving the section perfectly poised, nothing less than a win, preferably of the convincing variety, will satisfy an expectant Italian public.
However, Marcello Lippi knows from experience that New Zealand will be no pushovers. Not many teams put three goals past the Italians, but that was just what Ricki Herbert's All Whites managed when the sides met in a June 2009 friendly here in South Africa. Lippi's side eventually prevailed 4-3, but were given a real scare by a Kiwi side who go into Sunday's rematch buoyed by winning their first-ever FIFA World Cup point in Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Slovakia.
Players to watch
Chris Killen v Federico Marchetti
New Zealand's Chris Killen is not one of South Africa 2010's star strikers; indeed, he is set to find himself without a club when his Middlesbrough contract expires later this month. However, the big Kiwi did cause major problems for Italy the last time these sides met with his strength and aerial ability, and even grabbed a brace of goals. The man charged with stopping Killen repeating that feat is Federico Marchetti. The Cagliari No1 performed assuredly against Paraguay and will be aiming to make it as difficult as possible for Lippi to leave him out once Buffon returns.
0 – the number of games Italy have won this year, making the holders the only team in South Africa without a win in 2010. Lippi's side's last victory came with a 1-0 friendly triumph over Sweden on 18 November 2009, the intervening period bringing three draws and a defeat.
What they said
"[New Zealand] are very physical. We played them in a friendly last year, they're very dangerous in the air and from set-pieces. But everyone knows that we should win. We have to give away as little as possible and to keep the ball on the ground rather than playing long balls. I don't even want to think about the possibility of a draw or something else." Giorgio Chiellini, Italy centre-half
"[Beating Italy] would just totally change the landscape of the nation. And that's what we're trying to do, we're trying to be the front-runners to show that football is the biggest sport on the planet.” Rory Fallon, New Zealand forward
Voice of the fans
“There are two ways of meeting difficulties: you alter the difficulties or you alter yourself to meet them. Go for it, All Whites!” FIFA.com user Bertbacharat (New Zealand)
It took New Zealand over 40 years of trying to win their first FIFA World Cup point. Can they add another just five days later?