Italy midfielder Daniele De Rossi says he is not contemplating the prospect of losing to New Zealand when the two sides square up on Sunday.
The Azzurri opened the defence of their World Cup crown with a disappointing 1-1 draw against Paraguay, leaving them needing three points against the All Whites to seize control of the group.
All four teams are level on one point each after the New Zealanders stunned Slovakia to earn a draw in their first match and Marcelo Lippi's team can ill-afford to underestimate Ricki Herbert's team.
De Rossi says failing to win in Nelspruit would equate to humiliation for the reigning champions and he is keen to avoid becoming the second powerhouse to near the exit after France's loss to Mexico left them hanging on precariously to their hopes of progression.
He said: "Losing to New Zealand would probably mean risking elimination, as has happened with France. We'd have a drastic position in the standings.
"It would be as serious as if New Zealand failed to get out the group stages at the Rugby World Cup."
One of the factors working in favour of New Zealand is their physical prowess, and De Rossi is hoping the encounter does not become a battle of brawn over brains.
The combative ball-winner is no stranger to a physical battle, however he hopes his side's quality can flourish, adding: "I like the manly game but I also like playing the ball around.
"But I don't like it when the game gets too physical, not because I'm afraid but because I like the beautiful game.
"But I haven't seen any really physical battles in the World Cup, they've all been good games and I think this one will be similar to the Paraguay game."
Italy's task in retaining their status as world champions is said to be hampered by the absence of a superstar name in the ranks, with no equivalent of Wayne Rooney or Lionel Messi playing in the famous blue jersey.
De Rossi is confident his team can triumph again however, even without a player like Paolo Rossi, who in 1982 suddenly exploded into life with a hat-trick against Brazil and went on to win the Golden Boot.
He said: "It's early doors because Paolo Rossi also took his time to get going before scoring six goals. We've got forwards who've done a lot for many years and they're doing well.
"But at the last World Cup (in 2006) we won without a Paolo Rossi, we won and no-one complained."
Either way, the 26-year-old is not preparing for his team to be boarding an early flight home from South Africa.
"We're Italy and we should win. Not getting out of the group would be an absolute failure, it would also be a failure to not get past the second round."