Italy salvage draw
CAPE TOWN, South Africa – Italy opened the defence of their World Cup title with a labourious 1-1 draw against Paraguay yesterday.
Paraguay took advantage of their first shot on goal to take the lead in the 39th minute. Antolin Alcaraz outjumped 36-year-old Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro and Daniele De Rossi for a header following a free kick from Aureliano Torres, and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon had no chance for a save.
De Rossi made up for the opening goal by equalising in the 63rd, sliding in to redirect a corner kick from Simone Pepe. It was a solid start for the AS Roma midfielder, who was suspended for four games during Italy’s victorious 2006 run after bloodying the face of United States forward Brian McBride with a sharp elbow.
Already without injured midfielder Andrea Pirlo, however, Italy’s fortunes took another hit when they lost perhaps their most valuable player – Buffon – after the first half. The 32-year-old goalkeeper was removed in favour of inexperienced back-up Federico Marchetti due to an apparent back problem.
After a day of often intense rain, the match kicked off under a drizzle, leaving the field slippery. Temperatures stood at 8 degrees Celsius (46 degrees Fahrenheit), but the swirling winds coming off the ocean made it feel colder.
Paraguay had their first significant chance in the 22nd when Torres shot wide from beyond the area.
With the rain picking up and fans blowing harder on their vuvuzelas – seemingly demanding more action – both teams stalled in midfield for a while before Paraguay took the lead.
In the second half, Italy appeared rattled at first without Buffon shouting his usual orders, and Vera nearly scored in the 52nd when defender Giorgio Chiellini failed to clear.
After De Rossi’s equaliser, Italy’s best chance for victory came in the 83rd with a long shot from Montolivo that Villar did well to push wide.