NELSPRUIT (Reuters) - New Zealand will start Sunday's World Cup clash against world champions Italy with the same side that drew their opening match against Slovakia, coach Ricki Herbert said on Saturday.
He said midfielder Tim Brown would not start the Group F match in Nelspruit, despite his rapid recovery from a serious shoulder injury picked up on the eve of the finals.
"He's part of the squad now which is great. He's done what he's needed to do so I don't think we'd have any hesitation if we needed to use him now, but Paraguay is probably a better target for him, although he's made some great strides."
New Zealand will face Paraguay in their final group match in Polokwane on June 24.
Asked if Brown was fit enough to play now, Herbert said: "He's close to it, I wouldn't say he's 100 percent but he's a lot better than he was."
New Zealand have only faced Italy once before -- in a thrilling friendly last year in the run-up to the Confederations Cup in South Africa. Italy won 4-3 after the All Whites had taken the lead three times.
"We scored three goals and on any given day for a side to score three against the Italian side, they're doing well," Herbert recalled.
"But it was a friendly, it was the lead into a big tournament, and I think everybody was shuffling the deck a wee bit.
"We got a feel of what they're like (but) tomorrow's completely different. It's a World Cup game, there's a hell of a lot on the line."
Herbert, who as a player helped New Zealand to their only previous World Cup appearance in 1982, said that even if his side lost against the Italians they could be proud of what they had achieved in simply reaching South Africa.
"This team's done an incredibly good job at putting football in New Zealand back in a marvelous place," he said.
"The group's in a very tight position as we speak and whatever the outcome (against Italy), we're still in with a chance of going through, going into the third match, and no one would have predicted that."
With all four teams in Group F having drawn their opening matches, the group will be decided in the final round of matches.
(Editing by Jon Bramley)