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Michael Taylor 13th Jun 2010 - 17:58

Getting defensive: expect Italy to shut-up shop against Paraguay

Three days into the World Cup and the overwhelming sense is that goals are at a premium - don't expect this to change when the defending champions Italy take on Paraguay.

Marcello Lippi's tough to beat team head into a second straight World Cup quite unfancied at 16/1 but just like four years ago in Germany they'll be hoping to use the underdog tag to maximum effect.

Their obvious strength comes through the experience of one of the most recognisable spines appearing in South Africa with Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro and Gennaro Gatuso all present from day one and Andrea Pirlo available later in the tournament.

Fair enough they're no spring chickens, what they do bring to the table though is brilliant tactical awareness and solidarity rarely matched in international football.

It means that scoring against them is a tough task and one that saw them edge out the Republic of Ireland in qualification thanks to five clean sheets in ten qualifying games.

At the other end of the pitch a few problems may arise with an element of uncertainty around their attacking options possibly throwing doubt on to their ability to score enough goals.

A combination of Gilardinho, Vincenzo Iaquinta and Antonio Di Natale are the men charged with getting the Azzuri moving but without Pirlo threading them the ammunition they could struggle.

It could be especially troublesome against a Paraguay defence that conceded the second fewest goals through South American qualification - just 16 conceded in 18 group games.

The evergreen Denis Caniza is still a defensive rock while Sunderland's Paulo da Silva looks far more comfortable in Paraguay's red and white rather than his north east club's.

They also have a little bit of bite up front in the form of Manchester City's Roque Santa Cruz and Benfica's highly touted talisman Oscar Cardozo.

Whether a midfield lacking in industry can provide good enough service against the Italians is questionable but they easily have enough to give Lippi at least a mild headache.

The Italian supremo's tactics will no doubt be the same as the ones that have served himself so well in the past - tight at the back, hit Paraguay on the break.

What's more you have to expect it'll work once again with 1-0 in Italy's favour looking a great bet at 9/2 while I'd be shocked if there were more than 2.5 goals in the game (under 2.5 goals is priced at 4/9).

As for the men who can break the deadlock, it could be wise to look towards the Italians' set piece threats such as Giorgio Chiellini.

Chielli might not be a household name yet but he's a strong centre back who'll be hoping to fill the void left in Alessandro Nesta's absence.

He also excelled this season in a poor Juventus side and his eye for goal could hold him in especially good stead for his defence minded country (he already has 2 goals in 39 caps for his country).

If he can find the net first in this game you'll be paid out at 20/1 (7/1 anytime) - representing one of the best value bets of the game.

All in all though you have to say Italy, although a tiny bit short at 11/10 (Paraguay 3/1, draw 2/1), should have enough to scrap for the three valuable points - just don't expect a goal glut or you will be disappointed.


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