by J. Green of Predictem.com
As of May 21st the FIFA rankings for the teams of this group are Italy 5th, Paraguay 30th, Slovakia 38th, New Zealand 78th.
Italy is the defending World Cup champion and they have one of the best defenses in the tournament. They won their European qualifying group and are led by Juventus G Gigi Buffon. He is still considered the best keeper in the world and he was injured for part of the season and needs to be 100% this summer. The Juventus duo of Giorgio Chiellini and Fabio Cannavaro are the anchors of the back line and Andrea Pirlo of AC Milan is the best playmaker and will need to set up the strikers. The main weakness of Italy is that their attack lacks a top-flight striker and they will need to rely on their midfielders and their counter-attack for their offense.
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Paraguay will be in the World Cup for the fourth consecutive tournament and their defense is a good one. In 18 South American World Cup qualification matches they only gave up 16 goals. Paraguay has a good aerial attack, but they also have a good counter-attack and are great at taking advantage of opponents’ mistakes. They do not play possession soccer and wait for mistakes by the other teams and that may hurt them playing such good control teams like Italy.
South Africa will mark Slovakia’s first World Cup appearance and they won their qualifying group and scored the most goals in the European qualification process. The defense is a good one led by Liverpool central defender and G Jan Mucha. Marek Hamsik of Napoli and Miroslav Karhan man their midfield and they will be counted on for offense and to set up the strikers. The lack of top-flight players that have experience at an international level may hurt them so they will have to play team soccer to make it out of Group F.
New Zealand is only making their second World Class appearance and first since 1982. Soccer is the third most popular sport in the country, so the Kiwis may just be happy to be in the World Cup. They are a big and physical squad that will not be out-muscled to balls and they are decent at set pieces and in the aerial attack. Ryan Nelsen of Blackburn is the big name on defense and the strikers of Leo Bertos and Chris Killen of Celtic are good, but the one weakness is that the Kiwis lack the talent of most other World Cup teams.
Italy is THE team to beat and New Zealand is relatively weak so the match between Paraguay and Slovakia may determine who comes in second in Group F.
Here are the betting odds to win the Group Stage F at Sportsbook as of May 21st.
New Zealand +5000