Sports book gambling handicappers were flabbergasted, however, with New Zealand’s 1-1 draw with Italy, who was a prohibitive favorite with the World Cup betting odds.
New Zealand was given no chance against “The Azzurri” as they have little soccer tradition and no history of success. Italy is the defending World Cup champion and was expected to have their way and cost to victory against the “All Whites.”
New Zealand, in fact, broke out to a 1-0 lead and then held on for what was, without question, the biggest sports book gambling upset of the FIFA World Cup so far. New Zealand entered the match ranked as one of the worst teams in the tournament while Italy is a strong favorite to make the final.
The All Whites were ranked 78th in the world compared to Italy’s 4th place world ranking.
The Kiwis stunned The Azzurri with a much more aggressive strategy than what was anticipated as coach Ricki Herbert sent three strikers out on the pitch rather than hang back in defensive mode.
New Zealand has 2 draws in its first 2 games in the group stage as they also played to a 1-1 draw in their opener with Slovakia. They will complete group stage action June 24 against Paraguay.
Italy has been sluggish in World Cup action so far with 2 draws in 2 games as well. Their opening game was a 1-1 draw with Paraguay. The Italians will close out their group schedule with a June 24 match against Slovakia.
Italy coach Marcello Lippi admitted his frustration with the outcome as The Azzurri has been slow out of the gate in their first two matches.
“Once again the opponent scored on their first chance,” said Lippi. “We were able to control the game after that, but this was a match we should have won.”
New Zealand has not played in the World Cup since 1982 when they lost all 3 games.
New Zealand goalkeeper Mark Paston was a big hero in the draw with Italy as he turned in a near flawless performance that included a dramatic diving clutch save in the 70th minute.