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Impressive New Zealand surprise Italy


Impressive New Zealand surprise Italy

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NELSPRUIT, South Africa (AP) — New Zealand captain Ryan Nelsen accused the referee of having “stars in his eyes” for awarding a penalty which cost the All Whites an historic World Cup win over defending champion Italy on Sunday.
Italy equalized with Vincenzo Iaquinta penalty in the 29th minute after Daniele De Rossi tumbled in the area under a challenge from New Zealand defender Tommy Smith.
Nelsen branded the penalty decision from Guatemalan referee Carlos Batres as “ridiculous.”
“If that’s the best FIFA have to offer then I’d hate to see the worst,” Nelsen said. “Every ball we put forward he blew the whistle before there was even contact.”
Nelsen was still fuming an hour after the game finished.
“Even De Rossi said to me he was laughing,” Nelsen said. De Rossi “couldn’t believe (the referee) had given it. He was laughing.”
Nonetheless, Nelsen said the draw was an “amazing result” and added that his team had “put in an incredible effort.”
Nelsen made no apologies for his team’s tough approach, which clearly upset the Italy players in the first half after some robust aerial challenges from Kiwi striker Rory Fallon.
“We’re strong. We’re good in the air,” Nelsen said. “That’s part of the game. It’s not being negative, it’s just a strength of ours.
“The Italians knew it so they obviously knew they would hit the ground and pretend there were elbows and the referee saw stars.”
Nelsen said he thought officials were harsher on infringements from teams like New Zealand than they were on the higher-profile teams.
“That’s what New Zealand teams always have to go up against because if (referees) make mistakes against us nobody really sees anything, but if they make them against Italy the whole world complains,” he said. “If that’s the best FIFA have to offer than I’d hate to see the worst.”
New Zealand has been the surprise team of the tournament with two draws in its opening matches against Slovakia and Italy in Group F. With two points, they’re equal with Italy and two behind group leader Paraguay with one first-round match remaining.
The New Zealanders, whose only other World Cup appearance was in 1982, can ensure a spot in the round of 16 with a win over Paraguay in their final group game on Thursday.