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World Cup Recap - Italy vs. Paraguay



(Monday, June 14th)

Final Score: Italy 1, Paraguay 1

Cape Town, South Africa (Sports Network) - Italy opened its FIFA World Cup title defense with a 1-1 draw vs. Paraguay as the two sides opened Group F play at Green Point Stadium on Monday.

After going down 1-0 late in the first half the Azzurri capitalized on a goalkeeping error by Paraguay's Justo Villar off a corner kick just after the hour mark to equalize.

Villar came out to try and knock away the Simone Pepe corner from the left side, but whiffed at the ball at the near post, leaving Daniele De Rossi with an easy volley at the back post.

"I'm happy because we played as a team, but it's a shame not to have won because we deserved to," Italy coach Marcello Lippi said. "By the end our opponents had handed us control and they didn't create any danger in the second period, we didn't even let them have a single shot on goal. We still have to improve, however."

The game started uneventfully, with neither team generating a shot through the first 20 minutes. Italy's Ricardo Montolivo actually had the game's first shot in the 21st minute, but his slow roller at Villar from about 25-yards out was easily saved.

Lucas Barrios took a shot from about 18 yards for Paraguay seconds later, but it went well wide of Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and his net.

Paraguay went up 1-0 on one of their only ventures into the offensive third off a 39th-minute free kick taken by Aureliano Torres 40 yards from goal. Torres curled the ball to the top of the six-yard box to central defender Antolin Alcaraz, who got up to get his head on the ball and knock it into the right corner.

"We're really pleased to have gone toe-to-toe with the reigning world champions and, above and beyond the result, we're very satisfied with our performance, particularly as it's the start of the World Cup," Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino said. "We couldn't move the ball around accurately because of the way our opponents play, but we also made life difficult for them. The fact the goals came from set pieces says a lot. Paraguay could have a chance at this World Cup if we can combine the individual brilliance of other national sides with teamwork."

The Italians were dealt a blow coming out of the break, with All-World goalkeeper Buffon being subbed out of the game because of a hamstring injury. Federico Marchetti took over in net without the Juventus netminder making a save.

The second half was as uneventful as the first aside from the corner kick in the 63rd minute that led to the Italian equalizer.

With the draw, Paraguay has won only won one of its last 12 World Cup matches against European sides. Italy is now 2-0-1 vs. Paraguay in World Cup play.

Both teams will be looking for the full points to strengthen their chances of advancing when they are back in action on Sunday, with Italy taking on New Zealand and Paraguay squaring off with Slovakia.

06/14 19:40:33 ET


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