Three quick thoughts: Italy-Paraguay
Three thoughts from the last row of Green Point Stadium, where Italy tied Paraguay 1-1 on Monday:
1. Italy is old. So what? The Azzurri didn't win the Cup in 2006 by Total Footballing the rest of the field to death. They did it by being cagey. And what happens when you get older? Yeah, you get cagier. Mauro Camoranesi was dangerous from the second he came on as a sub. Fabio Cannavaro was his usual solid self. The list goes on. Could Italy use some new blood? Eventually. But if it's going to make a run in South Africa, it's going to do it because it's smart, it's disciplined and the players all know each others' every move.
2. Paraguay is not to be trifled with. For a while there it looked like they were going to out-Italy Italy. The defense, anchored by Paolo Da Silva, was solid and well-organized, and it took advantage of one of its few chances, banging home a cheeky set-piece play (that stepover on the free kick really seemed to disarm the Italian defenders, which allowed Antolin Alcaraz to slip in and head home for the game's first goal). There's no shame in holding the reigning champions to a draw. Paraguay may not be frightening, but it won't be easily beaten. (And its fans are awesomely friendly.)
3. It's the middle of winter. OK, anyone who understands that the earth tilts on its axis knows that, but when sitting out on one's patio in the States in June, one tends to forget that in the southern hemisphere it's the equivalent of Advent. It's winter, and it's cold and windy. It rained all morning in Cape Town, but by mid-afternoon it was gorgeous. An hour later there was hail the size of Milk Duds. The point: The game is unpredictable enough when played with a ball that flies like a beach ball. Factor in cold and absurd wind, and it becomes very likely that at some point the conditions will change the course of a game.
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