Italy V Paraguay Preview: Monday, 14th June (Group F)

12th June 2010 | World Cup Betting category: World Cup Qualification Previews & Predictions
World Cup Qualification Previews & Predictions

 

Italy V Paraguay

Kick-off: Monday, 14th June – 19:30 GMT
Stadium: Green Point Stadium, Cape Town
Referee: Benito Archundia (Mexico)
Group F

 

Italy

It’s sometimes easy to forget that Italy are the reigning world champions after their triumph in Berlin, Germany, four years ago. They had to defy some fairly big odds on that occasion too, as the Azzurri clinched their fourth FIFA World Cup and now trail only Brazil for the amount of times they’ve lifted the coveted trophy, and the Italians could yet match Brazil’s leading haul of five FIFA World Cup’s in South Africa, although clearly bookmakers are of a different opinion.

Marcello Lippi has often been criticised for clinging onto his veterans, those who the public no longer see as key but more past it and over the hill. His 23-man squad for South Africa 2010 contained no less than nine players over the age of 30 and despite the importance of some of those individuals, it has left Lippi open to backlash should Italy not put up a meaningful fight in their defence of the title. They were drawn in a lightweight Group F meaning they should qualify for the knock-outs without too many questions asked of them, but it’s a group which could see the Italians strengthen their claims for a successful defence of their crown should they dish out a few thumpings. That’s never been the way of the Italians though, so expect some clinical displays rather than overwhelming.

Lippi will feel he has the right mix of young and old in his squad, to which he might be proven right over the course of the tournament, but there are certainly question marks over a defence which will be ordered around by the 2006 FIFA Player of the Year Fabio Cannavaro. The former Real Madrid defender now plies his trade over in the UAE and at 36 years-old, will have lost a fair bit of pace. He has tonnes of wisdom in that wise old head of his mind, and considering he was the last man to lift the FIFA World Cup, perhaps his selection wasn’t as surprising as it was made out. Another golden oldie is Gattuso, who at 32 years-old declared his retirement at the end of the finals. He probably won’t play too much in South Africa, as Daniel De Rossi of Roma tends to anchor the midfield alongside the creative Andrea Pirlo, who pulls all the strings from the centre of midfield.

The key area for us is up front, as in previous tournament the Italians have looked extremely lightweight in the attacking third and have been reliant on others, defenders and all, chipping in with a few goals. Consider the majority of their midfielders haven’t scored an international goal, and the same applies to the defenders,  the Italian forwards really do need to earn their money. All the talk pre-World Cup has been about the emergence of Antonio Di Natale, who at 32 has only just began his Italy career really. Their main goal-getter is Alberto Gilardino, who led the line at Germany in 2006 so his presence in the final third of the pitch will surely be felt, while there’s no doubting how good a striker he is when inside the opposing penalty area.

 

Paraguay

It need some Argentinian steel to see Paraguay qualify for their fourth successive World Cup, with Gerado Martino instrumental at the helm as Guaranies finished third in the South American round of qualifying, with only Chile and the mighty Brazil bettering their accumulation of hard-fought points. There were some memorable results along the way, results which should instil a huge amount of self belief into the Paraguay team; beating Brazil 2-0 and Argentina 1-0, both in Asuncion, Paraguay. So, a match with the reign world champs should be walk in the park for the South American giant killers.

In previous tournaments gone by, Paraguay have generally been considered an easy opponent to face in the group stage because of their lack of quality. Two Round of 16 appearances in their last three World Cup’s does suggest the country is improving and after some of their heroics in qualifying, this buoyant bunch of Paraguayans should fear nobody. They were, though, fairly reliant on their home form as seven of their ten victories came on home soil, so playing on a different continent entirely may not suit a team many deem a potential ‘Dark Horse’.

One of Martino’s first acts as Paraguay manager was to build a formidable defence, one that would be a match for even the best of sides. A pair of to-nil victories over arguably two of the greatest ever World Cup nations, Brazil and Argentina, is a fair enough indication that he has succeed in his mission while only Brazil finished with a leaner defensive record, 11 conceded to Paraguay’s 16. Why do we mention this? Well, because the stars in this Guaranies team lye up front, with Nelson Valdez, Oscar Cardozo, Lucas Barrios, whose found the net three times in three games in the build up to the finals, and Man City’s Roque Santa Cruz. If the defence can re find the sort of form which kept Brazil and Argentina at arms length, Paraguay could produce the first real shock of the tournament were their strikers to remain clinical and composed in front of goal.

There’s every chance that Paraguay can take something positive out of this fixture, and not just a promising display. However, playing out of their comfort zone, which has been at home, has proved an issue of late and even in their warm up matches they found that playing in a completely different environment left them exposed. Like many country’s aiming to make a quick name for themselves by beating one of the fancied teams, Gerado Martino will need to ensure his defence remains alert throughout, with no room whatsoever for complacency.

 

Match Odds:

Italy – 2.10 Bet365
Draw – 3.30 totesport
Paraguay – 4.30 Boylesports

 

Our Prediction: Italy to WIN – 2.10 Bet365

The South American’s have come on leaps and bounds since their Round 1 exit in the 2006 World Cup in Germany, where quite clearly the European conditions didn’t suit them. They may well find the change in climate in South Africa won’t aid their chances a great deal either, so playing the current holders of the FIFA World Cup in just their first encounter, without really getting to grips with their South African surrounding, isn’t ideal. Moreover, we cannot disregard just how consistent a nation Italy when it comes to World Cup’s. So often they win games without really deserving the three points, so often they appear ordinary and sluggish in their first outing before growing in confidence as the tournament goes on.

France ’98, the last World Cup where Italy failed to win their opening game of the tournament and with the majority of the footballing world punting on other more fancied country’s, Italy will arrive in South Africa as a bit of a red herring in that no-one really rates them too highly and that will suit Lippi’s Italy down to the ground, as the pressure on them will be minuscule in comparisons to others despite them being the reigning champions. It won’t be pretty, as it never is, but Italy are one of those country’s where you would be foolish to back against them.

Our Recommended Bet: Italy to WIN by 1 Goals – 3.75 Ladbrokes



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