Do you want to know what the definition of true love is? Someone who believes that Italy will repeat as World Cup Champions this year. Notwithstanding the skills of goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, why coach Marcello Lippi, who exhibited such skillful tactics in the last World Cup, including putting three attackers in during extra time in the semi-final against Germany, would feel so determined to include Fabio Cannavaro, Mauro Camaronesi, and Gianluca Zambrotta on his squad, especially given the dreadful year their club, Juventus had is beyond me. They finished 7th barely qualifying for the third qualifying round of the Europa League.
So who will he put in central defense? Cannavaro probably paired with his teammate, Giorgio Chiellini, with Gianluca Zambrotta and Salvatore Bocchetti in the fullback roles. If I were an Azzurri fan, I would want him to pair Chiellini with Domenico Criscito, but I really don’t who he would pair with Bocchetti instead of Zambrotta.
While I wouldn’t question Gennaro (the Snarling Hound) Gattuso’s determination, drive and heart, as a midfield stopper, he’s not a kid any more. Daniele de Rossi may very well bear much of the heavy weight in central defense. So with questions about Mauro Camaronesi’s fitness and playmaker Andrea Pirlo likely to miss much of the first round, I’m at somewhat of a loss as to who will be leading the midfield offense. Claudio Marchisio with Camaronesi assuming he’s fit?
For the record, I really don’t understand why Giuseppe Rossi was dropped, especially given the paucity of goals scored by some of the others who were kept, e.g., Simone Pepe, (who has scored no goals with 13 caps vs. Rossi’s three goals with 14 caps) and Vincenzo Iaquinta (35 caps and 5 goals). I agree with his decisions to leave off Francesco Totti and Luca Toni, but he should have found a place for Rossi. In the attack he should slot Alberto Gilardino in along with Antonio DiNatale, Serie A’s top scorer at 32 for a team (Udinese) that finished barely above the relegation zone.
Paraguay is in my opinion, an underrated team from South America. They have a good keeper in Justo Villar, who has the misfortune of playing on a weak club team (Valladolid in Spain) and who is eager to redeem himself after leaving the 2006 World Cup with an injury seven minutes into his first game. I like Julio Caceres as one of the center backs (notwithstanding the fact that he plays for the loathsome Atletico Mineiro :-) and Paulo da Silva as the other. I’m not sure who will be the full backs, but I’m going to bet on Dario Veron and Claudio Morel. The underrated Victor Caceres should anchor the defensive midfield with Nestor Ortigoza and Enrique Vera and Cristian Riveros supplying the midfield attacking component.
Here’s where it gets a little tricky. Will coach Gerardo Martino go for the popular, talented, but oft-injured Roque Santa Cruz, or will he use the newly naturalized Lucas Barrios along with OScar Cardozo? He’s also got decent options on the bench with Edgar Benitez and the fleet Rodolfo Gamarra.
I am not as familiar as I’d like to be with Slovakia. Jan Mucha is their number one goalkeeper and is due to become Tim Howard’s backup at Everton. Their center backs are probably their best players, Martin Skrtel and Jan Durica, along with attacking midfielders, Marek Hamsik and Miroslav Stoch. I don’t know who will feature as forwards, but I would pick Filip Holosko and Stanislav Sestak.
I mean no disrespect to any of the Kiwi fans, but there are two primary reasons why New Zealand is in the World Cup and the first is that Australia moved to the Asian Confederation, the second being that they beat Bahrain by an aggregate score of 1-0 in two games. Notwithstanding, their recent 1-0 victory over Serbia, I believe that they will be more grateful for the experience than anything else.
So here’s where I go out on a limb; an exceptionally long limb. I’m going to pick Slovakia and Paraguay to go through. I think Italy may be undone by Paraguay’s speed in their opening game.
Cross-posted at Beautiful Horizons