Italy looking to dominate:
World Cup holders Italy will be expecting nothing less than plain
sailing in South Africa next month in a Group F where they are the clear
A pairing with New Zealand, Paraguay and debutants Slovakia makes
comfortable viewing for a team that has been anything but brilliant
since lifting the world crown for a fourth time in Germany four years
Slovakia will be making their first ever appearance and New Zealand
only their second, their first being back in 1982 when they lost all
The toughest prospect will undoubtedly be Paraguay, who battled
through tough South American qualifiers to reach the World Cup for the
fourth time in a row and eighth time in total, but have never been
beyond the second round.
But while Italy will be the undoubted favourites to win the group,
all three of their opponents will fancy their chances of reaching the
For all three there were much tougher prospects out there and the
likelihood is that there will be quite a battle for the runners-up spot
in the group.
As for Italy, they come into this with a 100 percent record against
their three opponents.
However, that constitutes only four matches in total and little
should be read into it. Their only previous meeting with Slovakia was
back in 1998 and a 3-0 win in a home friendly in Catania but Slovakia
have come on in leaps and bounds since then.
There are few surprises in the provisional 30-man squad named by
Italy coach Marcello Lippi last week as he included ten players from
their triumph in Germany with Villarreal striker Giuseppe Rossi the only
The Azzurri are scheduled to arrive in South Africa on June 9 ahead
of their Group F opener with Paraguay in Cape Town on June 14.
Paraguay have been beaten twice by Italy but one of those was back in
1950 at the World Cup in Brazil and the other one also in 1998, a 3-1
friendly victory in Parma.
However, this Paraguay team is another heading in the right direction
and led the South American qualifying group from beginning almost to the
end when Brazil finally overtook them.
As for New Zealand, Italy have already had their fingers almost
burned once by the Antipodeans having had to come back from a goal down
three times in a pre-Confederations Cup friendly in Pretoria last June
before two Vincenzo Iaquinta goals in the last 22 minutes earned the
world champions a narrow 4-3 win.