June 20, 2010

New Zealand 1, Italy 1: In perhaps the most lopsided, one-sided game of the tournament so far, a shocking result. Both goals were tainted by botched decisions by the officiating; the All-White / Kiwis scored off an offsides call that wasn't made, Italy evened on perhaps the worst dive since Lewiston, Maine, and fans thereafter were treated to a game that could have easily ended in a six or seven-goal rout. The defending champs had a 15-0 edge in corner kicks, a 23-3 advantage in shots, and controlled the ball for about 75% of the game, but couldn't get a winner, and so will have to beat Slovakia to advance to the second round.

After the game, there was a discussion as to where the game ranked on the list of the greatest upsets in history: was it bigger than the US over England (1950), or North Korea over Italy (1966), or Cameroon over Argentina in the 1990 opener? Here's a tip: today's game was not one of the biggest upsets ever, because it wasn't an upset. New Zealand didn't beat Italy. They tied. Soccer is a sport where ties frequently happen, and in the World Cup, which has a higher degree of parity than league play, it scarcely raises an eyebrow even in this case. Italy tying against a noticeably weaker opponent in first round World Cup play is a dog-bites-man story. If New Zealand makes it to the second round, then wake me up.

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