FIFA World Cup Preview: Part 6 of 8

GROUP F

Italy: Many have doubted the reigning champion’s odds of going back to back. Saying their old and too defensive has brought up queries in the Italian team. Of all, Marcello Lippi knows that his side are not affected by outside talk. That they talked them down in 2006, and you all know what ended up happening. Italy will breeze through the group and will have a serious crack of winning back to back. Just remember, in the four years of ageing, comes with four years extra experience.

Player to Watch: Daniele De Rossi (Midfielder) Tipped as the next captain of the Azzuri. De Rossi has taken his game to another level which has sparked interest from Spanish giants Real Madrid. He will be looking to fill the spot left by champion Francesco Totti.

Paraguay: A team that is playing with more flair than recent generations has seen the South Americans sharpen their game. They boast key playmakers, but one, Salvador Cabanas was shot in the head in a bar room argument earlier this year. Cabanas will have to live with shrapnel in his head for the rest of his life and has his career in doubt. Paraguay will go out to do their best for one of their much loved players.

Player to watch: Roque Santa Cruz (Midfielder/Attacker) Fans will be hoping that this true superstar makes it onto the fielder after injury concerns. He has that attacking flair and ability to set up scoring chances. It’s simple, when he is up and going Paraguay is up and going.

New Zealand: The Kiwis have not mad the world cup for a very long time and now they are here, they would want to make a statement. Similar to Australia of 06, the Kiwis are going into the tournament as the real underdogs. Depth is the key issue and Coach Ricky Herbet will want to find some undiscovered talent in his squad.

Player to watch: Shane Smeltz (Striker) has been in prolific goal scoring touch for club side Gold Coast United and will want to transfer his club level to national. However, he will need to score goals against quality opposition, as his goals have come against mostly Oceanic countries.

Slovakia: Much has not been heard of this team who have qualified quietly. They have some talented players that could see them cause some upsets. Their first world cup will want to be a successful world cup for a team that has never played on the big stage like this. Good luck to them.

Player to watch: Martin Skrtel (Defender) Well known from his English club Liverpool, Skrtel will be hoping to inspire his team-mates to glory with his no-nonsense defending. Is the rock in the back for the Slovakians.

Through to round of 16: Italy & Paraguay

Headline: “FORZA AZZURI!”

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