BfB Goes To The World Cup 2010 (Without leaving the front room)

When the Italians won the World Cup four years ago they were in disarray the Champions Juventus being stripped of the Serie A title and corruption going from speculation to cold, hard, distasteful fact.

Four years later and the Italian game is at the top of Europe having seen Internazionale add a European Cup to a league and cup double giving them an assumed superiority. A look down the Italian squad – one of three with England and Germany which is entirely drawn from players of their national league – reveals not a single Internazionale player.

The idea is that as the Italian squad is very much based on the same team which won the tournament last time is now too old to win. In truth last time they rode their luck and it is the need for a repeat of such fortune and not the legs which stop the Europeans being favourites.

Paraguay qualified well but – as is traditional – are considered outsiders compared to Argentina. The Argentine manager Gerardo “El Tata” Martino has made a side with few star names – Roque Santa Cruz’s move to Manchester City reserves has seen his star dim – and it is thought a limited potential

The Italians start very brightly playing the ball around with confidence despite the hail stones that beat down onto the field at kick off and the driving rain that follows. They push the Paraguay defence but struggle to break it and as with Japan’s rearguard action against Cameroon earned them a chance so a superb delivery by Aureliano Torres is met by Antolín Alcaraz – the only man in the air in a crowded Italian box – and the lead goes to the South Americans.

The Italians lacked penetration in the first half and have further problems with the oft thought best goalkeeper in the world Gianluigi Buffon does not return form the break and Federico Marchetti replaces him. The Italians face a strong back line determined to defend a lead and would seem to lack a Totti on the field to unlock the Paraguay defence.

Playmaker Andrea Pirlo sits on the bench, watching, and perhaps he does not want to consider that no side which has been behind has won a game in this World Cup. The Italians are increasingly desperate hitting shots from range that have little chance of beating Justo Villar but the sub-six foot goalkeeper sails under a simple corner and Daniele De Rossi feels the ball come off his leg and watches it nestle in the back of the net.

Italy are the USA and Villar is Rob Green.

Italy have tails up and Riccardo Montolivo breaks into the box threateningly only to be abruptly brought to a halt as Paraguay keep sight of the wider aim of winning a point rather than winning the game. They face the Italians who switch to a 442 and look more dangerous for it but still fall a long way short of The German Standard which all teams are being measured against.

The game descends into something like a battle to win free kicks with one side using them as a way to stay being the ball and the other to try test the keeper who was found at fault. One struggles to recall the replacement Italian keeper making a save but Paraguay have limited aims in this match and with New Zealad and Solvakia left to play it is not hard to see why.

New Zealand are not considered a threat and while Solvakia are good they are not to be considered as able to dismiss the third placed South American qualifiers who – if Italy would be expected – beat the Slovaks and Kiwis would only need a draw with the Eastern European nation to progress. The dynamics of the group with New Zealand being defined by – and dependent on – the idea that they will lose all three games.

A second half battering from Italy is a small price to pay for a result which goes a long way to putting Paraguay into the second round.

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