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Italy beats New Zealand 4-3 in Confed Cup warmup

ALBERTO Gilardino and Vincenzo Iaquinta each scored twice to give Italy a hard-fought 4-3 win over New Zealand yesterday as both sides warmed up for the Confederations Cup.

Italy began with most of its starters either on the bench or in the stands at the sparsely attended Super Stadium on the outskirts of Pretoria and was twice behind by halftime.

Shane Smeltz put New Zealand ahead after 13 minutes, meeting a free kick with a header.

Gilardino equalized in the 33rd minute, concluding a perfectly executed counterattack for the World Cup holders. Simone Pepe took advantage of some open space and carried the ball up the right flank before sending a cross over to the left wing, where Fabio Quagliarella set up Gilardino's header with a delicate chip.

New Zealand took the lead again in the 42nd, with Chris Killen beating goalkeeper Marco Amelia to the ball and heading in off the crossbar.

Gilardino made it 2-2 in the 48th with another header, following another setup from Quagliarella.

It was Gilardino's 12th goal in 32 appearances. He scored 19 goals for Fiorentina in the recently concluded Serie A season.

After the break, New Zealand went 3-2 up when Killen was tripped by Amelia inside the area in the 56th, earning a penalty which the Celtic forward converted.

Italy coach Marcello Lippi put on usual starters Iaquinta, Luca Toni and Mauro Camoranesi - plus Riccardo Montolivo - in the 60th minute, and Iaquinta promptly scored twice.

Iaquinta slid the ball past charging goalkeeper Glen Moss in the 68th minute and then steered home a rebound from close range five minutes later for the winner.

"It was a good night of work," Lippi said, before adding of the Kiwis. "They look like a very solid team, they are fairly organized and very fit physically."

Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon were given the night off and watched from the stands.

Smeltz was named the best player in the Australian A League last season with the league's only New Zealand side, Wellington Phoenix. He recently signed with Gold Coast United.

"When you're in this game, anything is possible," New Zealand coach Riki Herbert said. "But we've also got to put this in perspctive - in four days' time, we could get a pasting from Spain. I thought we were very good at set-pieces."

Italy beat Northern Ireland 3-0 in another friendly Saturday.

The Confederations Cup starts on Sunday with host nation South Africa playing Iraq.

Italy opens its campaign against the United States on Monday, faces Egypt three days later and concludes Group B play against Brazil on June 21.

New Zealand is in Group A with European champion Spain, South Africa and Iraq.

"I scheduled this game for training purposes and I think it was good for our preparation," Lippi said. "We still have to recuperate a few players. (Daniele) De Rossi, Cannavaro and Buffon didn't play tonight and I think they will all be ready for Monday."


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