World Cup post-game: Italy 1, Paraguay 1
Paraguay earned a well-deserved 1-1 draw against reigning champions Italy at the 2010 FIFA World Cup Monday in Group F action in Cape Town.
The main story line
It wouldn't be a World Cup if Italy didn't stumble out of the gate.
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Italian fans shouldn't be too shocked that the Azzurri failed to win their opening game of the competition. Italy famously underachieved by drawing all three of its first-round games at the 1982 World Cup before coming alive in the knockout stage and eventually winning the tournament.
Still, it is worrisome that Italy dominated the pace of the game and pegged Paraguay inside its half for long stretches, but failed to produce more than one goal.
As for Paraguay, the South Americans were outstanding and well organized in defence, comfortably containing the Italian attackers and snuffing out danger before it really had a chance to develop.
In earning a point against the Italians, Paraguay delivered a warning to the rest of the World Cup field that it should not be underestimated.
Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, a key figure in Italy's World Cup winning team from four years ago, sustained an undisclosed injury and was replaced by backup Federico Marchetti at the start of the second half.
Turning point of the game
The Italians had it all their way from the opening kickoff, but for all of their slick passes, they failed to make good use of their possession. Paraguay had one scoring chance in the first half, and they buried it, delivering a stunning sucker punch to the Azzurri.
The Italians were shell-shocked, but Daniele De Rossi scored in the 63rd minute, capitalizing on a gaffe by Paraguay goalkeeper Justo Villar, to swing the momentum back in favour of the champions who finished the game strong.
What this result means
Today's result leaves the door wide open for New Zealand and Slovakia, who square off Tuesday, to take the early lead in Group F.
Italy will be more pleased with taking one point from this encounter, as Paraguay faces a tough Slovakian side in its next match, while the Azzurri are expected to have an easy time of it against New Zealand.
Man of the match
Midfielder Daniele De Rossi was outstanding for Italy, orchestrating the attack in the absence of the injured Andrea Pirlo and scoring the goal in the second half that breathed new life into a limp and lifeless Italy.
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Goal of the match
In the 39th minute, Paraguay earned a free kick from 30 yards out, which Aureliano Torres duly bent into the middle of the Italian box. Antolin Alcaraz did well to out-jump Fabio Cannavaro and De Rossi and powered home a powerful header past Buffon.
Save of the match
Villar came up with a great finger-tip save in the 83rd minute, pushing Ricardo Montolivo's long-range effort that looked destined for the lower corner of the net around the post.
The Italian perspective
"The biggest regret is the result. They only approached the goal once and they scored. We reacted well but you've got to win games likes these." — coach Marcello Lippi
The Paraguayan perspective
"It was a good result, though we can't say we played really well. We have to take into account who is who. It's not easy to play first against the last world champion." — coach Gerardo Martino
Paraguay takes on Slovakia in Bloemfontein on June 20 (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 a.m. ET), while Italy meets New Zealand on the same day in Nelspruit (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 9:30 a.m. ET).