Italy v Paraguay
Vuvuzela Rating: 5.2 Occasional Beehive Bedlam
In the opening Group F, reigning World Champions Italy took on Paraguay, a dark horse from the South American group. Italy were the bookies favourites before the game but their opponents have dispatched both Argentina and Brazil during qualifying. The Italians took to the pitch in their normal manner, sneering at anyone in the crowd they could fix their beady little eyes on, including their own supporters.
The game began at a rather frantic pace with Paraguay happy to soak up the Italian pressure and breaking up various attacks with blatant fouls. Cristian Riveros putting in a particularly reducing challenge on Riccardo Montolivo, which resulted in a 15 minute stoppage while a cold compress was applied to ‘poorly ankle’. The football gods clearly were not pleased at this opening passage of scrappy play and proceeded to soak the pitch in conditions which could only be described as monsoon-esque. This downpour only sought to aid the ability of various players to hit the deck without so much as a second’s thought.
As the first half wore on the Paraguayans began to grow in stature and confidence. Pressing forward sporadically and attempting to trouble the Italian defence, with varying degrees of success. After 39 minutes the deadlock was broken, Aureliano Torres curled in a great delivery from a set piece and Antolin Alacaraz powered a header into the bottom right-hand corner of the Italian net. The celebrations were followed by notoriously unstable ‘keeper Gi-gi Buffon proceeding to have one of his trademark tantrums, hurling his toys left right and centre around the stadium, several of which had to be retrieved during half time by stewards and security personnel. The combination of these outbursts meaning there was a total of 34 minutes injury time added at the end of the first half.
Italy emerged for the second half looking like a different team, literally. The aforementioned mentalist Buffon refusing to take to the pitch as his favourite “My Little Pony” toy had not been retrieved from an unreachable area of the stands. Back-up goalkeeper Marchetti quickly readied himself for action, despite admitting when the final squad was announced that he had “absolutely no chance of playing” during the tournament.
The first 15 minutes of the second half slipped by without innocent, with BBC summariser and big nosed rent-a-gob Mick McCarthy heard snoring into his microphone by viewers on the red button service. McCarthy and half of the viewing public awoke from their slumber when the Italians finally sprang to life. Pepe whipped in a corner and following the example set by several goalkeepers in the first week, Paraguay stopper Villar proceeded to fluff his lines, completely missing the cross and leaving Daniele De Rossi to tap in from close range.
Following the equaliser Italy poured forward in their droves, in search of goal which would surely seal their first three points of the tournament. Apart from suspiciously Algerian looking midfielder Mauro Camoranesi committing enough cynical fouls to fill several referee’s notebooks, but despite his best efforts to see red, the referee refused to follow the first yellow card with a second. Paraguay’s attacks became less and less frequent, even with the introduction of Manchester City benchwarmer Roque Santa Cruz, the striker having recently been voted the most over-rated player in South America by his own countrymen.
Despite Italy’s best efforts they could not find the back of the net a second time, Villar in the Paraguayan goal attempting to rectify his earlier gaff with several decent saves from the likes of Riccardo Montolivo and Simone Pepe. Eventually 90 minutes rolled around and Mexican referee Benito Archundia took off his rain soaked sombrero and blew for full time, leaving Italians despondent, Paraguayans satisfied and every neutral watching still not quite sure when the tournament is going to burst into life.
Match Statistics (Powered by OptaJoke)
95 – Gi-Gi Buffon spent 95% of the first half mucking around with his neckscarf. Fashion.
11 – Striker Roque Santa Cruz has sent 11 tear stained begging letters to coach Gerardo Martino in an attempt to start the next game. Desperate.
41 – Mauro Camoranesi committed a total of 41 fouls despite only coming on in the 60th minute of the game. Temper.