Italy ill at ease
Their opening performance against Paraguay was therefore typical - or was it? Did we merely witness another slow start or a symptom of something more sinister? Are the aging World champions about to suffer a slow, lingering death and relinquish their hold on soccer's biggest prize?
By common consent, Italy conquered the world four years ago based on a rock solid defence. The Italians didn't score too many in Germany but they didn't have to. From the imperious Gigi Buffon forward, Marcello Lippi's back line was virtually impenetrable.
Fabio Cannavaro was the foundation of the fortress. His personal performances were almost faultless and his very presence inspired those around him. Cannavaro is now 36 and, on the evidence of this Group F opener, is beginning to look his age.
Buffon, Cannavaro relegated to spectating
Cannavaro was comprehensively outmaneuvered for Paraguay's opening goal on a cold night in Cape Town. Buffon was a stationary spectator as Antolin Alcaraz rose to head the South Americans in front. Buffon did not re-appear after the interval - apparently bothered by a back injury.
I can only assume he pulled a muscle picking the ball out of the back of the net. Buffon, reckoned by many to be the world's best goalkeeper, has endured a punishing season at Juventus and my friends of Italian descent tell me his stock has been falling for some time.
Mobility also seemed to be a problem at the other end of the field. Iaquinta and Gilardino laboured away unproductively - too often failing to find space or simply beaten to the ball by their more industrious opponents.
A point a-piece was just about what both teams deserved and while Paraguay should be very satisfied with their night's work, Italy has plenty of room for improvement.
I would be shocked if the Azzurri doesn't go on to win the section but that's hardly the point. Neither New Zealand nor Slovakia are exactly global heavyweights, but let's not forget Italy's poor showing at the Confederations Cup a year ago - a warm-up event in which they never warmed up.
Off the pitch on day four, Sepp Blatter made one thing crystal clear. The vuvuzelas are staying. The incessant buzzing soundtrack to the World Cup created by the blowing of thousands of plastic horns will not be banned.
The FIFA President has made some bizarre statements in his time. This is not one of them. Blatter's passion to take the World Cup to the African continent presented many challenges, not the least of which was embracing the culture.
This is Africa's World Cup and the sooner we get used to it the better. Not all soccer fans follow the game the same way. If the vuvuzela is the instrument of choice to help create a unique atmosphere, then I don't have a problem with the noise.
It's like living next to the train tracks - after a while you become immune and only notice it when friends come round for dinner. I'd rather put up with the vuvuzela than endure hostile fans jeering and whistling every time an opponent touches the ball.
This is the World Cup. Let's allow it to be just that and celebrate its global appeal.
About the Author
Nigel Reed brings his extensive experience, passion and knowledge of the game of soccer to his role as play-by-play announcer for Major League Soccer ON CBC.
Reed has more than 20 years experience covering soccer, most notably a five-year stint from 1999 to 2004 where he was a host and producer for the English Premier League for BBC. He also covered English Premier League giants Liverpool and Everton for BBC Radio and provided analysis for both BBC TV and the BBC website.
Reed, who will also call matches for CBC's FIFA broadcast package, covered weightlifting, taekwondo, soccer and equestrian for CBC's coverage of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games.