Italy come from behind to snatch a draw with Paraguay

ITALY 1
De Rossi 63

PARAGUAY 1
Alcaraz 39

Despite a shaky start to the defence of their World Cup crown Italy can take some positives out of the draw with Paraguay in the Group F opener at the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town.

The Azzurri looked lethargic in the first half. The 4-2-3-1 formation set out by Coach Marcello Lippi left striker Alberto Gilardino isolated, as bizarrely the team rarely used the wingers – Simone Pepe and Vincenzo Iaqunita, which the formation is set up to do. Much has been written on Italy’s lack of a trequartista (a creative, attacking midfielder), in the mould of Francesco Totti or Alessandro Del Piero. Andrea Pirlo – injured in training, is the only genuine creative force they have. Claudio Marchisio got the nod to replace Pirlo and much like in the warm up games, he struggled to make the position his own and looked absent throughout. It was only when Mauro Camoranesi replaced the disappointing Marchisio that Italy finally began to show some good form.

Lippi switched to a more traditional 4-4-2 with the substitution, with Camoranesi and Pepe bombing down the wings more and Iaqunita playing up front with Gilardino. Camoranesi looked lively and changed the game. Unfortunately Italy don’t have the players in the centre of midfield to be able to dictate play like Spain for example, therefore their greatest success comes from the abundance of wingers they possess. Some concerns coming out of the game would be for all the possession they enjoyed in the second half and as better as they looked, they still could not create any guilt-edge chances. Indeed, only Montolivo and Pepe had the best chances, long range shots that did not trouble the keeper too much. Star stopper Gianluigi Buffon was replaced at half-time by the promising Frederico Marchetti, for reasons not disclosed. His fitness will be a concern for Lippi, as they prepare for the next encounter against New Zealand.

The Azzurri are notoriously slow starters and should not be too disheartened with the performance. The 4-4-2 system suits them well, as, much like the 4-2-3-1, it allows the wingers to be deployed. The positive difference is it allows the wide men another front man to target and gives the central midfielders a chance to push forward, while tracking back to help with the defence. The world champions are not tipped to repeat their success, but that does not bother them, as they thrive in adversity.

Paraguay, after taking a shock 1-0 lead from a free-kick, rarely threatened in front of goal, but for an Enrique Vera bullet of a shot that flew just wide of the far post. Borussia Dortmund strikers Nelson Haedo Valdez and Lucas Barrios did not receive the type of service they desired and Italy looked relatively comfortable at the back. They will be pleased with a point, as they look to claim all three when they face Slovakia on Sunday.

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