- Posted by Geoff Reid
- On June 9, 2010
- 2 Comments
- 2010 World Cup, Geoff Reid, Group F, Italy, Paraguay, Slovakia
By Geoff Reid
This group is one that should not give us any real surprises on paper, but then again you really never know because it’s the world cup. The Italians are defending champions and will be favorites to top the group even though they haven’t looked like champions in their warm up matches. On paper, second place should be the winner of the Paraguay vs Slovakia match with New Zealand completing the group. Arguably, the Paraguayans would have been odds on favorites to join the Italians as qualifiers from this group before Club America striker Salvador Cabanas, who was the leading scorer in qualifying, was sadly shot in the head in Mexico City. His absence could make this group much more interesting.
Italy: The main injury worry for the Azzuri is Andrea Pirlo. However, the main problem with the squad is the average age. The complaint from Italians is that manager Marcelo Lippi is being too loyal to his troops that won it all in Berlin for him four years ago. There’s nothing wrong with keeping trust in folks who have been successful with you in the past in a any business, and if captain Fabio Cannavaro can stay healthy and reach top form at the right time this team can succeed again. The trouble is he is 37 now, and hasn’t been in good form for his club side Juventus. The Italians should have enough to get through this group as winners though and it’ll be interesting what happens from the last 16 onwards.
Paraguay: In a similar fashion to countries like South Korea and the USA respectively, Paraguayan people believe their national team should get through this group and if they don’t it will be considered a failure. No more are they happy just to take part in the tournament. What will be different about this side compared to previous tournaments is manager Gerardo Martino likes to attack and this side will not draw back into a defensive shell so it’ll be interesting and fun to watch. The one big problem though as mentioned before is the loss of top scorer Cabanas but without him the side still has strikers that are very capable of scoring goals. Manchester City’s Roque Santa Cruz who is Paraguay’s most famous player and if Borussia Dortmund’s Nelson Haedo Valdez can find top form, he can score some very nice goals. This side could be another potential dark horse.
Slovakia: Taking part in their very first world cup, Slovakia will not hold back and take any punches. The squad itself expect to finish runners up in the group to the Italians and will not be content with just qualifying for the tournament. The problem with the Slovakians will be lack of depth. The two players who will be relied upon more often then not is Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel and Napoli midfielder/playmaker Marek Hamsik who at this moment is the only player the Slovakians have that can change a game in an instant. This is the world cup, and that means anything is possible. It’s just tough to see this side progress beyond the group stage.
New Zealand: The All Whites know their position. They are massive underdogs and if New Zealand got only a point in this world cup it would be a success. Manager Ricki Herbert firmly believes that his side can get a win over the likes on Italy and looks only as far back as 2002 when Senegal beat France to prove his point. Yes, on paper these teams do not match up, but that’s exactly why we play the game. The team’s strength is in defense with goalkeeper Mark Paston although he is recovering from a broken leg but should be good to go. Blackburn Rovers’ Ryan Nelson will captain the side and is the linchpin at the back. The problem the Kiwis will be having is their lack of creativity in midfield and up front, which is why if they reach a single point in group play, it would be considered a massive success. Currently the best midfielder is former San Jose Earthquake Simon Elliott and he will be called on a lot in this tournament. Up front, the goals will look to come from two strikers who play in the English Championship ; Rory Fallon of Plymouth Argyle, and Chris Killen of Middlesbrough.
Prediction: This should be one of the groups that is more predictable and we fully expect that to be the case here. On paper what should happen realistically should happen. We fully expect the Italians to have no trouble topping the group, even unconvincingly, with a battle for second place between Paraguay, and Slovakia with New Zealand just being happy they are taking part.
New Zealand 0pts