Rapid fire reaction- New Zealand v. Italy.
All the hyperbole you want to throw at this match is fully warranted. The best example of when a draw is a win. New Zealand was denigrated in the Italian press. They were dismissed by everyone. When you have nothing to lose, reckless abandon becomes second nature. Except in this case, there was no recklessness to be seen save for the unfortunate foul that allowed Italy to get a foot in the door. New Zealand were under siege for almost the entire game. They kept their composure and deepened what is becoming a legendary World Cup story. They now sit poised to make a run for the second round and stun the World. The Hobbits have wandered far from the shire and through the Orc-infested fields of Mordor.
The shot and the goal- New Zealand's goal was a thing of beauty. Shane Smeltz slipped past a distracted Fabio Cannavaro while fully on-side and pile-drove the ricochet off Cannavaro's thigh into the back of the net. After setting up the injury time goal in the Slovakia game, Smeltz is becoming a folk hero who should expect to hear from some bigger clubs come tournament's end.
The theater- Oh, Italy... It was like a night at the opera with all of the drama performed by the Italians. Daniele DeRossi made the most of Tommy Smith's shirt pull by hitting the ground like he was avoiding machine gun fire. The rest of the Italian team hammed it up clawing at their faces and sides from the immense pain inflicted by the Kiwi's Jedi mind powers.
The siege- The wall of Jericho, Mark Paston was not. The vuvuzuelas blew, but they could not bring down the New Zealand keeper. He was caught flat-footed only once in the night, and after his escape from that incident made sure the mistake was not to be repeated. He stretched and batted away shot after shot. Paston guarded his goal like Gandalf at Khazad-Dum. The Italian Balrog to be denied time and again. "None shall pass!". Seriously, I'm going to milk the Lord of the Rings and New Zealand references to death. His defense deserves extra credit for weathering repeated corner kicks.
The shame- I fully expected italy to "get their groove back" this game. They had chance after chance, and even all the Jewel Box Theater level performances couldn't bring them a victory. They will be eviscerated in the Italian papers. If they don't advance to the second round, it will be the greatest failure by a returning championship team since France in 2002.
The aftermath- I am on the New Zealand band wagon. Get me a shirt, and cases of Tui and Steinlager. Everything they do from this point on is gravy. They gained so much respect after they gutted it out against Slovakia, and have elevated themselves to Cinderella status in World Cup history books. Next up, New Zealand get stuck with a really talented Paraguay side that look almost certain of advancing. Italy face off with Slovakia in a desperate fight for advancement.
Required New Zealand cultural viewing:
The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the other films of Peter Jackson.
Flight of the Conchords seasons one and two.
New Zealand legendary All Blacks rugby team. Famous for the Maori Haka dance performed before each match.
Indoctrinate yourselves now before the band wagon fills to capacity!