Italy vs. Paraguay Greenpoint Stadium Bloemfontein, South Africa 2:30 PM EST Monday June 14, 2010
by Jason Green, Professional World Cup Soccer Handicapper, Predictem.com
Match Odds: Italy 2.00 / Paraguay 4.00 / Draw 3.20
Over/under: 2.5 goals
Moneyline: Italy -113 / Paraguay +325 / Draw +220
In the opening match for Group F on Monday evening defending champion Italy takes on Paraguay. Italy does not head into the World Cup with a head of steam, as they failed to win in their 2 World Cup tune up matches. On the other side of the coin Paraguay beat Greece in their last friendly match and even though the Greeks will be playing in the World Cup and have one of the best defenses in the tournament Paraguay beat them 2-0.
The Italians have much of the main squad that won the World Cup in 2006 and much like 4 years ago they will have to rely on their defense, a they do not have a dynamic offense. The Italians are no spring chickens, as most of their starting 11 are over 30 and some have even called them the worst team that will be defending their World Cup trophy.
Italy will be trying to repeat as World Cup champions for the 2nd time.
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This match may not see a lot of offensive fireworks, as each team’s strength is their defense. Paraguay only gave up 16 goals in 18 matches during World Cup qualification.
Even though both squads have a great defense this match is still not a good one for Paraguay. They are masters at taking advantage of opponents’ mistakes, but they do not control the ball, which may kill them in this match. Italy’s squad is stacked with players that play at some of the biggest clubs in the world, so they will not make many mistakes. If Italy controls the ball and does not turn it over they will win this match.
The one X factor for Italy is they still have G Gigi Buffon, who is still considered the best goalie in the world. In the 2006 World Cup he only conceded 2 goals one of a penalty shot and the other off an own-goal.
Paraguay may want to watch a tape of Italy’s last friendly, as Mexico ran circles around the Italians and ended up winning the game. Italy will try to slow the pace and if Paraguay can force an up-tempo match they have a good chance to win.
Italy Recent Form
6/5/2010 Italy 1 Switzerland 1 (Friendly)
6/3/2010 Italy 1 Mexico 2 (Friendly)
3/3/2010 Italy 0 Cameroon 0 (Friendly)
Paraguay Recent Form
6/2/2010 Greece 0 Paraguay 2 (Friendly)
5/30/2010 Paraguay 2 Ivory Coast 2 (Friendly)
5/25/2010 Ireland 2 Paraguay 1 (Friendly)
The Italians are hoping that Andrea Pirlo’s calf injury is ok, as he is their main playmaker and they will need his play in the midfield.
Even though the Paraguay striker trio of Roque Santa Cruz, Nelson Haedo Valdez, and Oscar Cardozo do not play for elite clubs they are still a talented bunch that will create problems for the Italian defense.
Paraguay does not have the best midfield and if the Italians control the midfield and dominate the time of possession it will only be a matter of time before they find the back of the net. Paraguay has to take advantage of their speed and out-hustle the aging Italians to balls in the midfield.
Italy is great at the counter-attack, so Paraguay cannot push too many men forward. Paraguay will come out and try to score early and I think it will backfire, as the Italians will score in the first-half off a counter-attack.
Even though Italy won the World Cup in 2006 Gigi Buffon may be counted on more this time around. He had injury troubles this season with Juventus, but he will prove he still has it by keeping a clean sheet in this match.
Jason’s Pick to Win: With the defenders of Fabio Cannavaro Giorgio Chiellini and Buffon Paraguay has their work cut out for them in this match. No matter how weak the Italian offense is their defense will carry them and they will win this match by a score of 1-0 or 2-0.