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Posted by Sumeet Paul on 06/15/2010

After months of anticipation, the Azzurri’s World Cup campaign in South Africa kicked off last night, resulting in a 1-1 draw with Paraguay. As the incessant jibes at this ‘old’ Italy got well under way, the world was quick to criticise a poor showing from Marcello Lippi’s men...however having been prepared for a less than convincing performance, most Italians will be quietly pleased and confident for the remainder of the group stages.

De Rossi finds the equaliser ©Getty Images

Having seen the majority of the world’s powerhouses struggle in their opening ties, with the exception of the impressive Germans, Italy can take heart from their second half performance and successfully coming from behind to deny Paraguay victory. Of course it would have been great to get off to a winning start, but that wasn't to be.

Let us not forget that Paraguay are a side who conquered both Brazil and Argentina in qualifying, and finished their campaign with a record number of points on the board. Last night was by no means a certainty, and my pre-match prediction of a draw was met with relief and contentment as the full-time whistle sounded in Cape Town.

With New Zealand on Sunday, followed by Slovakia next Thursday, the Azzurri can be fairly confident of finishing top of the group, especially after the Kiwis’ late equaliser against the Slovaks. With tifosi expecting no less than 6 points, the pressure will now build on La Nazionale to perform and possibly show more of the glimpses of good football demonstrated in the second half.

With Lippi getting his tactics spot on with his second half substitutions, who were your star performers? Daniele de Rossi produced a display that Giallorossi fans will have been proud of despite his mistake for the goal, whilst the enigma that is Riccardo Montolivo grew as the game continued. Despite on-going criticism, il capitano Fabio Cannavaro proved his doubters wrong with a solid display alongside Giorgio Chiellini and Simone Pepe surprised many, including myself, with a decent show.

With Gigi Buffon picking up a knock, it is hoped the Bianconeri stopper will be ready for New Zealand, while elsewhere I expect to see changes for either Vincenzo Iaquinta or Alberto Gilardino who failed to impress.

Finally, having listened to the constant digs at how the ‘old and defensive’ Italy had showed up, let me just take this chance to re-iterate a point I had made ahead of last night’s game which was documented in the pre-match build up. The average age of the England side that faced USA last Saturday stood at 28, while Italy’s was also 28 at kick-off. With Gigi Buffon being replaced by Federico Marchetti at half-time, that fell to below 28, and had it not been for war veteran Cannavaro standing at an ever-green 36, this Italy side can finally shrug off its traditional stereotype and show the world what this new Italy has to offer.

Forza Azzurri!


Posted by sam on 06/15/2010

It's very easy to criticize Italy for their first presentation in this WC, as many experts around the world have done, but I have to be honest and say that I enjoyed what I saw on the field.

The overall attitude of the Azzurri coming from behind, the change of rythm and speed of Pepe and Chiellini, and considering the corageous performance of the Paraguayan NT, I agree with you that this was a respectable and fair result.

Italy has seldomly started off a successful WC with explosive demonstrations (last Championship not being an exception). As long as they maintain their passionate attitude, perseverance and dicipline, the Azzurri will always be an important contender for the title.

Group F is back to square one with the difference that Italy has probably finished playing the most threatening of the three adversaries. Nothing can be claimed, and no team discarded before the "fat lady sings," but I wish you all the best of luck!!

Posted by P on 06/15/2010

Good blog entry from Sumeet, and fair in its evaluation - unlike most of the ESPN pundits who seem to unnecessarily bash the Azzurri every chance they get with recycled criticisms.

Even the recap start by calling the performance "underwhelming". But Italy has scored more goals than Portugal and the same number of goals as Argentina, England, and Netherlands (Denmark scored the other goal in that game). Even Brazil only socred 2 (and conceded 1). Still it is Italy on the receiving end of harsh criticism - I guess there's no stopping haters once they get going.

Considering the Azzurri played in pouring rain on a soaked field, they were lively, held possession and most of the game stayed in the Paraguay half.

Even so changes need to be made up front. He needs to scrap the 4-3-3. He doesn't have the personnel for it, unless he starts Quags and DiNat on the wings (or brought Balotelli). But Iaqunita needs to play in the middle or be the 2nd striker in a 4-4-2.

Posted by Azzurri Tifosi on 06/16/2010

I agree with Sumeet on many things that he wrote with the exception of his high praises of Cannavaro and Montolivo. Cannavaro's defense was spotty at best. It could be argued that Cannavaro charging in to Alcaraz as he ran towards the box chasing his own man threw DeRossi off because as the ball arrived in the danger zone Cannavaro was slightly closer to Alcarcaz than DeRossi.
Montolivo meanwhile was the main culprit for the lack of flow in the Italian offense. His clumsiness, failing to trap simple balls numerous times caused the 3 seconds lag in redistributing the ball and gave Paraguay enough time to set their defense. To make matters worse, as a holding midfield, he did not win any balls for the Azzurri. I would've preferred that Marchisio stayed instead of him when Camo was brought in. Then instead of taking Gilardino off, I would've taken Iaquinta off as given support from his MF, which there was close to none that day, Gilardino could've made a difference.

Posted by italia3438820610 on 06/16/2010

FORZA ITALIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Champions on the ris.

british guys on tv are annoying

Posted by Nunzio Knows on 06/18/2010

I'm a die hard Italy fan but my patience has been red lining because of Lippi's choice of starting players and squad. I've polled friends and neighbours and we're all in agreement that if "Genius" Lippi starts and plays Iaquinta we will lose. I don't know anyone who knows anyone who has ever seen this sleepy, sluggish player ever score. It's a disgrace to have picked him over players like Cassano who has amazing skills and Baletolli who can outrun the fastest players on the planet. It's an international disgrace to suck a multimillion dollar paycheck as a coach and not be able to see past your nose. Iaquinta is an invisible man on the pitch and is equivalent of Italy playing a man short. he can't run, can't dribble, is sluggish and has no goal scoring talent. What a crying shame and a national disgrace. Inzaghi, Del Piero,Cassano, Balotelli and Manchesters Macheda would make any opposition soil their World Cup shorts. What a shame politics has prevented these talents from playing.

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