Italy centre-back Giorgio Chiellini admitted that the world champions are worried about the aerial threat posed by New Zealand. The two sides go head-to-head on Sunday, with both having drawn their opening Group F games in the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The two sides are no strangers to each other, having clashed in a friendly warm-up ahead of last year's FIFA Confederations Cup, in which Italy scraped a 4-3 victory. And Chiellini and his team-mates know they will be in for another bruising battle in Nelspruit.

"They're very physical," he said. "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 need to have more shots than we did against Paraguay.

"We have to give away as little as possible and to keep the ball on the ground rather than playing long balls," he added. "It won't be easy but with all the respect we owe our opponents, we should win. I don't even want to think about the possibility of a draw or something else."

It won't be easy but with all the respect we owe our opponents, we should win.

Giorgio Chiellini, Italy centre-back

Italy will be without first choice goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon as he is suffering from a sciatic problem in his back and is out for an unspecified amount of time. And Chiellini admits that he and his fellow defenders have a responsibility to help make his replacement Federico Marchetti's life as easy as possible.

Marchetti came on for Buffon at half-time in the 1-1 draw with Paraguay but will get his first start in the FIFA World Cup against New Zealand. "He has his qualities, he'll have no problems replacing Gigi (Buffon), he's calm," said Chiellini. "He doesn't need me to give him any advice. Goalkeepers are in a different world, they have different feelings on the pitch. It's moreover Gigi who can give him some advice. What we (defenders) can give him is an easy night."

Even so, Chiellini admitted that the loss of Buffon, who has long been regarded as one of the best if not the best in his position in the world, will be a blow. "We all hope that it's nothing serious and that he can soon come back, of course I'm very disappointed," he said. "We know what he's worth. We always need someone like him, from every perspective.

"We'll miss the man as much as the player but he'll still be there in the dressing room before and after the match. For any team a great goalkeeper makes a difference, as much as a striker who scores. The goalkeeper and the strikers are the most important positions."

Italy were criticised following their opening game for not creating many chances, but Chiellini believes the reigning champions suffered the same problems as all the other big teams.

"Apart from Germany everyone had similar performances, it's just some had a bit more luck and won," he said. "That proves that there are no easy matches, even against supposedly weaker teams.

"However, at the end it will be the favourites who go through and who will get to the latter stages," he added. "I believe we can go all the way and I hope we win the group so we can avoid the Netherlands in the next round as I'm sure they'll win theirs."