Monday, June 14, 2010

World Cup 2010 Game 11: Italy 1, Paraguay 1

The summer of 2001, Cindy and I went on a walking tour with Lost in Italy. Time in Florence, Assisi and Rome was spent on either side of hiking in the Cinque Terra and Tuscany. It was a great trip and there was very little I didn't adore about Italy: the wine, the art, the food.

Not sure why, but I hate their soccer team, though.

Maybe it's residual hostility over the vicious de Rossi elbow against Brian McBride--which the BBC called "sickening" (and seriously, how weird is it that you can find four year-old sports articles from the BBC on Google?)

Italy isn't the New York Yankees of world soccer...Brazil is more dominant. They are like the Duke University version of their a lot and make nobody happy but their own fans.

The Galaxy Theater in Cary had a lot less people today...mostly moms with ill behaved kids (and really, when Sartre said "hell is other people"...) and a few retirees. The crowd was evenly divided amongst Italy supporters and people who hadn't a clue where Paraguay is but wanted them to beat Italy.

Looked like it might happen for awhile, too. The rain made the play pretty ugly, and when Paraguay got a set piece header it looked like they were going to hold the fort. A goalkeeper goof (what else) on a corner kick gave Italy an undeserved tie.

Still, even if they had lost, I don't think Italy was in much trouble--with games against New Zealand (the primary beneficiary of Australia, they of the 0-4 thumping at German hands) having moved to Asia), possibly the weakest team in the tournament and Slovakia (currently ranked 34th in the world, or fifteen spots weaker than Cameroon).

Is there an opposite of "Group of Death" (the proverbial nickname for the hardest first round draw in the tournament)? For all the opining that the United States got a lucky draw (one called it the easiest draw the United States has ever gotten), England certainly looked better than Italy, and Algeria, the supposed weakling of the group is ranked higher than Paraguay, Slovakia, and New Zealand. In other words, the worst team in our group is ranked higher than every other team in Italy's group except Italy. Ask the Brits which group they'd rather be in. I wasn't too crestfallen that Italy got the equalizer because even if they had lost I still couldn't see them not advancing to the next round.

Then again, Paraguay did beat Brazil by two goals (the only team to do so in qualifying) and sported a 1-0-1 record against Argentina. So they can play some defense. How they scored two goals against Brazil baffles me since I'm not sure they had the ball on the Italian side of the field that much. Their defense was solid, though. One thing I enjoy about the World Cup is seeing a lot of soccer and being able to see where the Concacaaf teams I usually see aren't as developed. What jumped out at me in this game is how quickly and tirelessly defenders closed space. (Think in terms of the difference between an open shot in basketball and one with a defender running at you.)

There's usually one big upset in the first round of group games. I don't think it's going to be Brazil-North Korea, so maybe Portugal should be sweating. (Though, honestly, the Ivory Coast beating them would not be that huge an upset...more like a Butler beating Syracuse, the names make it more shocking than the talent differential.) Could Spain possibly go down to the Swiss? Doesn't seem likely, but that's why they are called upsets.

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