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De Rossi rescues holders

June 14, 2010

Determined: Lippi loves a good fag to keep his mind focused

Italy 1-1 Paraguay

HT (0-1)
De Rossi 63 Alcaraz 39

Venue: Green Point Stadium

Att: 62,869

Italy began their defence of the World Cup with a gritty 1-1 draw against Paraguay in Cape Town in the opening match of Group F. After falling behind courtesy of an Antolin Alcarez header five minutes before half-time, Marcelo Lippi’s men demonstrated the mental strength and determination that won the tournament in 2006 when captain Fabio Cannavaro got his hands on the greatest prize in the world.

And it was Cannavaro, the praetorian guard, leading by example at the heart of the Italian defence as the holders showed great character to equalise on the hour mark albeit due to some poor goakeeping from the Paraguay goalkeeper. Shot-stopper Justo Villar was in no-mans land as he flapped at a Simone Pepe corner and Roma favourite Daniele De Rossi bundled the ball into the empty net.

Paraguay, who are ranked 31st in the world, defeated Brazil and Argentina during qualifying but struggled to impose themselves on the game. The introduction of Manchester City striker Roque Santa Cruz showed Gerardo Martino’s intention to snatch an unlikely victory.

The Italians offered little in the way of attack but the four-time winners of the competition will be encouraged with the last quarter of the game when Lippi reverted to a familliar 4-4-2 system following the introduction of veteran midfielder Mauro Camoranesi. This seemed to be the catalyst for highly-rated midfielder Riccardo Montolivo to display his attacking threat as the 25-year old’s drive from distance was pushed away by Villar to ensure the spoils were shared at the Green Point Stadium.        

Tomorrow sees the eagerly awaited New Zealand v Slovakia match in Durban. Paraguay and Italy will be confident of progressing to the round of 16 without too much of a scare. Viewers will be praying for entertainment following yesterday’s drab 1-0 victory for Japan against Cameroon.

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