Ricki Herbert has named an unchanged starting line up for tonight's Group F dust up between the Champions of Oceania; the largest continent in terms of square miles, and the Champions of the measly World.
But seriously, what do we realistically expect?
Before the injury time heroics of Rustenburg I might have said an honourable, but sound, defeat. Maybe 2-0. Now I feel we have a chance. A chance to sneak a draw that is. Even a hopeless optimist like me finds it hard to believe that NZ can get up and beat the four time world Champions. But stranger things have happened.
In a friendly before last year's Confederations Cup New Zealand went into the lead four times against Italy, before losing 4-3. There are very few teams who put 3 goals past the catenaccio, 'sliding bolt defence', of Italy. yes, it was meaningless warm up game, and yes, Italy were essentially a B-team, but New Zealand were missing key players Fallon and Nelsen that day, and new found first teamers Reid and Smith were still yet to be born. In that game the aerial threat from set pieces was New Zealand's main weapon as it will be again tonight.
Italy were complacent that day and New Zealand caught them napping. I assure you Italy will be more wary this time. That in itself is a credit to New Zealand and Oceania Football.
An Edinburgh Blogger, Russell, approached the Yellow Fever fan's forum asking for more information about NZ Football. It seems that he is playing a game on his No Punts Intended Blog. The game is called 'Winner stays on' where he chooses a team to support and then switches to whoever defeats them, since being Scottish, he has no team to support in South Africa. Russell has decided to start with NZ-a nice touch since NZ's two goals against Scotland in 1982 contributed towards Scotland's early exit. I answered Russell's call for help and he published my sleep deprived thumbnail sketch of New Zealand football.
Let's hope that Russell is still saying kia ora to New Zealand tomorrow, after we say arivaderchi to the Italian mob.
New Zealand team to play Italy:
Mark Paston (Keeper)
Winston Reid, Ryan Nelsen, Tommy Smith (Defenders)
Ivan Vicelich, Simon Elliott, Leo Bertos, Tony Lochhead (Midfielders)
Shane Smeltz, Rory Fallon, Chris Killen (Strikers)
Here is something to watch while you wait for KO, the last and only time we met the Azzuri: