IRENE, South Africa — Italy coach Marcello Lippi lamented that his squad wasn't able to follow his orders in its stunning 1-1 draw with New Zealand at the World Cup.
"Evidently something is not working if we're not able to put the ball in the net," Lippi said in a heated news conference Monday, a day after tying the 78th-ranked All Whites. "We worked the entire week on keeping the ball low and on the ground, but as soon as we grew a little nervous we started booting it high in the air."
Italy also drew 1-1 with Paraguay in its opener, and the defending champion now needs to beat Slovakia in its final Group F match Thursday to be sure of advancing.
Italy produced 23 shots to New Zealand's three and led 7-1 in shots on goal but had trouble finding the target, equalizing only with a penalty kick from Vincenzo Iaquinta.
The Azzurri's problems finishing were also evident against Paraguay,
"We're having trouble in front of the goal," Lippi said when pushed by a foreign journalist. "What other problems do you see?"
Italy has scored only five goals in its last seven matches and only one forward has found the target in open play: Fabio Quagliarella in a 1-1 draw with Switzerland in a pre-World Cup friendly.
"I think we're trying too hard," Lippi said. "We were all sure of what we needed to do, but maybe allowing early goals in both games has changed our approach in some manner. We've got to take responsibility, because nobody is happy."
Still, Lippi has seen some things he has liked.
"In these two games we've only allowed two shots on goal, and they both started on set pieces from 40 yards. That's something positive," Lippi said.
Italy can console itself with the fact it also drew its opening two games in 1982, when it went on to win its third World Cup. In fact, Italy drew all three of its group matches in '82.
A draw against Slovakia might be enough to get Italy through with three points this time, too, but then the Azzurri would need some help from New Zealand or Paraguay.
"We still have a chance, but we can't continue like this," Lippi said.