NELSPRUIT, South Africa, June 20 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand held reigning world champions Italy 1-1 in a World Cup Group F match here on Sunday.
The two sides met once before in a friendly with Italy winning 4-3.
In the first group match, Italy tied Paraguay 1-1, while New Zealand earned their first point by levelling Slovakia at 1-1.
Only seven minutes into the game, New Zealand took the lead with Shane Smeltz firing home a shot. This was the first time for the Kiwis to take a lead in a World Cup match.
Nevertheless, four-time world champions Italy came from behind to make an equaliser at the 29th minute when Daniele De Rossi was brought down in the box and a penalty was given. Vincenzo Iaquinta converted the penalty.
With only one point at hand, Italy were desperate for a victory as they continued to dominate the court in the second half. At the 61st minute, Iaquinta missed a good chance by hitting the ball on the edge of the box.
The Azzurri pushed for another goal at the 80th minute when Antonio Di Natale, a prolific scorer in Italian Serie A this season, forced to the edge of the box but failed to find the net. Three minutes later, Juventus's full-back Giorgio Chiellinni's header went wide.
The New Zealanders also got chances as substitute Chris Wood's left-foot shot nearly gave the Kiwis another lead in the closing minutes.
Now Italy joined New Zealand with two points on the billboard following Paraguay, who beat Slovakia 2-0 in an earlier match and topped the group with four points. Slovakia had one point to their credit.
Italy's dominance failed to prove effective as they had 23 shots in contrast to New Zealand's three.
The last time the reighning world champions did not win any of their two first World Cup matches were France in 2002.