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World champs Italy looking to dominate Group F

[ 2010-06-10 11:19]     字号 [] [] []  
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World Cup holders Italy will be expecting nothing less than smooth sailing in Group F which they are the clear favorites to win.

A grouping with New Zealand, Paraguay and Slovakia makes comfortable viewing for a team that has been anything but brilliant since winning football's biggest prize for a fourth time four years ago in Germany.

Slovakia will be making their first ever appearance and the Kiwis only their second, their first being back in 1982 when they meekly exited after losing all three matches.

The toughest prospect will undoubtedly be Paraguay, who battled through tough South American qualifiers to reach the World Cup for the fourth time in a row and eighth time in total, although they have never been beyond the second round.

But while Marcello Lippi's Italy will be the undoubted favorites to win the group, all three of their opponents will fancy their chances of reaching the next round and a battle is in store for the runners-up spot in the group.

The Italians have a 100-percent record against their three opponents, although as that constitutes only four matches in total, little should be read into it.

Their only previous meeting with Slovakia was a 3-0 win in a friendly in Catania back in 1998 but the Slovaks have come on in leaps and bounds since then.

There were few surprises in coach Lippi's squad, which includes nine of the players who triumphed in 2006, including outstanding goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and 36-year-old defender Fabio Cannavaro, who has just agreed to move to Al-Ahli of Dubai.

Midfield star Andrea Pirlo has a calf strain and is expected to miss the opening match against Paraguay on Monday but his absence is not likely to unduly concern the coach.

Paraguay have been beaten twice by Italy but one of those was at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil and the other a 3-1 friendly victory in Parma in 1998.

However, this Paraguay team is heading in the right direction and led the South American qualifying group from beginning almost to the end, when Brazil finally overtook them.

Former goalkeeper Jose Chilavert, whose eccentrics lit up previous World Cups, claimed his country could capitalize on the advancing years of the Italians.

"I think Paraguay can beat the world champions - the Italians have got very long in the tooth. They are tired and recently haven't been taking care of themselves," the 45-year-old told Brazil's Radio Jovem Pan.

As for New Zealand, Italy have already had their fingers almost burned once by the Antipodeans having had to come back from a goal down three times in a pre-Confederations Cup friendly in Pretoria last June before two Vincenzo Iaquinta goals in the last 22 minutes earned the world champions a narrow 4-3 win.

Midfielder Aaron Clapham of Canterbury United was the main surprise when New Zealand named their 23-man squad as coach Ricki Herbert said he had to make some tough choices.

"I'm not one to usually have sleepless nights but this has been a very difficult job settling on the final pieces of the jigsaw," said Herbert, who played in the 1982 finals.


(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)

World champs Italy looking to dominate Group F

About the broadcaster:

World champs Italy looking to dominate Group F

Nelly Min is an editor at China Daily with more than 10 years of experience as a newspaper editor and photographer. She has worked at major newspapers in the U.S., including the Los Angeles Times and the Detroit Free Press. She is fluent in Korean and has a 2-year-old son.