Italy v Paraguay – upstart South Americans get first bite at holders
World Cup holders Italy open their tournament against Paraguay in Cape Town at 7.30 on Monday. The Italians are 18/1 to be the first country to retain the trophy since Brazil in 1962.
Italy have a reputation of being notoriously slow starters, but since 1962 they have only lost one of their opening games in the World Cup (against the Republic of Ireland in 1994, when they won the tournament), and have won their last two openers 2-0, against Ghana and Ecuador.
They are 13/2 to repeat that scoreline against Paraguay. Italy are also unbeaten in nine games against South American sides.
Paraguay in contrast have only won one of their last 11 World Cup games against European teams and one of seven opening games at World Cup finals, but they did beat both Brazil and Argentina in qualifying and finished third behind the two South American giants.
In a low scoring World Cup so far, the Italians are not going to be fancied to buck the trend. Only twice in the last five World Cups have Italy scored more than two goals. The odds are 8/15 for there to be fewer than 2.5 goals in this match.
Any Paraguay goals are likely to come from a front three of Roque Santa Cruz (9/1 to open the scoring), Lucas Barrios (8/1) and Nelson Haedo Valdez (10/1). The latter two play together at Borussia Dortmund.
The Italians will be missing midfielder Andrea Pirlo but De Rossi, Camoranesi and Marchisio have all been declared fit. Midfielder Marchisio of Juventus will be “the revelation of the tournament” according to Fiorentina’s Alberto Gilardino, himself an interesting outside bet to be tourmanent top scorer (40/1).
He is 11/4 to be Italy’s top scorer.