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World Cup Preview from The Sports Network



Monday, June 14, 2010 (All times Eastern)

Italy (0-0-0) vs. Paraguay (0-0-0), 2:30 p.m.

Cape Town, South Africa (Sports Network) - Group F is widely considered to be the weakest in this year's World Cup, with Italy, Paraguay, Slovakia and New Zealand.

So when Italy squares off with Paraguay at Cape Town Stadium on Monday, the match could be between the top two teams in the group.

The Italians enter the tournament as defending champions, but manager Marcello Lippi has brought with him an aging side that has plenty of question marks.

Paraguay has the belief that this could be the best team yet to represent the country at a World Cup, and they can make a major statement if they can take points off the Italians in their opener.

Lippi will have the benefit of a wealth of experience in defense with goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and captain Fabio Cannavaro, while Gianluca Zambrotta has worn the Azzurri shirt plenty of times himself.

Midfielders Mauro Camoranesi, Daniele De Rossi and Gennaro Gattuso have each exceeded 50 appearances on the international level, while Andrea Pirlo has also reached that mark but will miss the Azzurri's first two games because of a calf injury.

But Lippi's biggest concern, outside of the age of his team, will be the strikers.

Veterans Alessandro Del Piero, Filippo Inzaghi, Luca Toni and Francesco Totti each failed to make the team, leaving Alberto Gilardino, Vincenzo Iaquinta and Antonio Di Natale to take care of the scoring.

Paraguay also has a problem at striker with the team's leading scorer in qualifying, Salvador Cabanas, out after being shot in the head in a bar in Mexico in January.

But the team still has Roque Santa Cruz as well as Oscar Cardozo and Lucas Barrios up top to go along with a typically strong defense.

Paraguay finished only one point behind Brazil in South American qualifying, and if they can get a point against Italy, they could be on their way to a spot in the knockout round for the fourth time in five World Cups.

06/13 13:11:20 ET


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