World Cup Odds and Betting Picks: Italy Vs. Paraguay Preview and Predictions
by Robert Ferringo - 6/12/2010
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It’s hard to believe that a defending World Cup champion could come into the World’s Greatest Sporting Event with less fanfare, hype or even expectations than Italy is heading to South Africa with.
The Italians begin the defense of their World Cup title at 2:30 p.m. EST on Monday, June 14 with a match against Paraguay. The game is the Group F opener for each squad and will be played in Green Point Stadium in Cape Town.
There has not been a repeat World Cup champion since Pele’s 1958 and 1962 Brazil teams turned the trick. And despite being ranked No. 5 in the world, and not having been ranked lower than No. 16 in the FIFA rankings since 1990, Italy doesn’t seem to be a very feared team heading into this year’s tournament.
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There shouldn’t be much about the Azzurri that even the most casual soccer fan wouldn’t know. This is one of the most experienced clubs in the field and one of the most decorated and successful national teams that the world knows. The individual players all contribute at the highest club levels in the world. They play a rugged, physical, technical style of football that simply doesn’t leave any openings for its opponents. Also, they boast the best defense in the sport and perhaps the world’s best goalie, Gianluigi Buffon.
All in all, the Italians go to South Africa with only one acceptable outcome on their mind: another title.
There are nine players from the 2006 championship team on this year’s Italian roster. But while that gives them a load of experience, there are questions about the overall age on this team. That shouldn’t impact them much in their opener, but it could contribute to them getting worn down as the tournament progresses.
Then there is the issue of Italy’s lackluster play over the last year. Italy last played in South Africa in the 2009 Confederations Cup and it was a disappointing performance by Azzurri. They lost to Egypt, were hammered 3-0 by Brazil and failed to advance out of round robin play.
That weak showing has actually been indicative of Italy’s play over the last year. Since its Confederation debacle the Italians have ho-hum wins over Georgia, Bulgaria and Cyprus to go along with draws against Switzerland, Ireland, Holland and Cameroon. In fact, that 0-0 Cameroon draw is the only game – prior to June 1 – that Italy has played together as a national team in 2010.
Paraguay won’t have the advantage of facing a team with tired legs. But they also won’t be fearful of the champs. This South American group is playing in its fourth straight World Cup and looking to avenge a horrid showing in Germany in 2006. However, Paraguay is a pretty underrated program and has advanced out of group play in two of the last three World Cups.
Unfortunately, they wouldn’t be a true South American soccer team if someone weren’t being shot in the head. And this time it was Paraguay’s leading scorer in qualifying, Salvador Cabanas, who took a bullet to the dome back in January. It will be years until he makes a full recovery and the forward may never play again.
But the Guaranies also share something else in common with fellow South American national teams: an unrelenting attacking style and an inherent offensive flair. They have a host of offensive options and this is a team that always wants to be pushing forward.
Italy vs. Paraguay World Cup Odds:
The odds in this game are a huge red flag. Most would expect Italy to be a major favorite, yet they are just -0.5 (-110) with the spread and just -120 on a straight money line. Paraguay is at +0.5 (-120) and is +330 on the moneyline. The Draw pays out at +330 and the total rests at 2.0.
Italy is the slimmest chalk of any of the group favorites. And when you consider that they are the defending champions the books know that they’ll take a huge number of bets on the Azzurri leading up to this contest.
Italy vs. Paraguay Picks and Predictions:
Italy Will Win If: They are motivated. The Italians have not been in form for some time here and the vultures are swirling over this team, waiting for a slip up. But in a lot of ways Paraguay plays a style that works right into the hands of the Italians. Paraguay plays a very aggressive 4-4-2 in which both fullbacks have the freedom to push up on the attack. This leaves the Guaranies vulnerable to counterattack. And I think that Italy’s stellar defense can frustrate the Paraguay offense, lure some extra players up towards the goal, and that will leave Paraguay keeper Justo Villar on an island. This game could be another vintage, ugly 1-0 Italian win.
Paraguay Will Win If: They can defend their own goal and catch a break. The Italian defense can be impregnable. But first and foremost, Paraguay needs to keep Italy from earning a goal because if the Azzurri get up early they will squeeze the life out of the underdogs. Paraguay will find some daylight, but not much. They need to take advantage of the sliver of opportunity that they get on the attack.
Robert Ferringo will be releasing rated selections on the 2010 World Cup this summer. Robert is a long-time soccer aficionado and one of the most exciting handicappers in the industry, and he guarantees a profit through the entirety of the tournament. Sign up today and get on board the Victory Train!
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