Failure to qualify from the group stage for Italy would be like the mighty New Zealand All Blacks losing at rugby, the Italian midfielder Daniele de Rossi said yesterday.
The stuttering Azzurri, little-talked about among the favourites for glory in South Africa, face underdogs New Zealand in their second Group F game tomorrow after an uninspiring 1-1 draw with Paraguay in their opener. "Absolute failure would be not getting through, failure would be to go out in the second round," De Rossi said. "We've got to aim at reaching the semi-final. It may sound limiting but it's an important goal as then it is anyone's game."
New Zealand, ranked 78 in the world, are the polar opposite of the country's great rugby side and De Rossi knows the humiliation the world champions would face should the result go against them in Nelspruit.
"Losing to New Zealand would probably mean we would risk going out like France," he said. "You can imagine what that would mean, it would be like New Zealand going out in the first round of the rugby World Cup."
Italy will play Federico Marchetti in goal as the veteran Gianluigi Buffon is injured. Buffon has a herniated disc and had to leave Italy's opening game against Paraguay, and Marchetti came on as a substitute.
"I am convinced I can play a good game on Sunday," said Marchetti. "Buffon and I are different," he said. "He is faster and more reactive. I am more muscular and explosive. I believe to have courage and awareness of your talent are the basis to have success."
The 27-year-old made his senior debut last year and this is his first international tournament. "I feel the confidence of my team-mates," he said. "Buffon just told me to show what I'm capable of doing. He trusts me."