A goalkeeping howler spared Italy’s blushes in their opening group stage game against Paraguay, ensuring they claimed a fortunate point on a rainy night in Cape Town.
Spirits were running low in the Italian camp after a number of sluggish displays in freindlies leading up to the game. But the attitude of ‘it’ll be alright on the night’ soon went out of the window, as Italy were on the back foot for the majority of the first half. A casual and cagey first half was brought to life though, as Wigan defender Antolín Alcaraz rose to attack a great delivery from a free-kick on 39 minutes, giving underdogs Paraguay a shock lead going into the break.
Things went from bad to worse for Italy, as star man Buffon was forced off with a nerve problem in his lower back. Having felt it during the pre-match warm-up and resolved to battle on, he was forced to admit defeat. Lippi hopes he will be fit for the New Zealand game on Sunday but last night Buffon was classed as a doubt.
That Italy recovered parity in the second half owed everything to the unfortunate Justo Villar. The Paraguay goalkeeper was all at sea when Simone Pepe curled over an inswinging corner, failing to connect with his wild flap at the ball and Daniele De Rossi pounced with a close-range volley. Italy failed to up the tempo for the remainder of the game and almost went behind again when Enrique Vera went close. However they did finish strongly, with Montolivo threatening to score the winner from distance.
Overall, both managers seemed content with a point from their opening game, more so for Paraguay, who will feel they have a realistic chance of winning the group. But for Italy, a distinct lack of pace and urgency revealed their downfall and concerns grow as to whether the squad has what it takes to progress, espcially in the absence of key players.
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