An interesting match to say the least. At times, Italy looked like the dominant team while other stages of the match they still lacked creativity up top. They had chances, but could have done a lot better.
Two questions remain for Marcello Lippi going forward: Can they show some kind of consistent attack and how much time, if any, will Gianluigi Buffon miss?
For Paraguay, it was a good showing. They were solid in defense, very organized, and if it wasn't for Villar's error, they would have come away from this match with three points.
And one incredible stat from ESPN: Italy’s 69.9% passing accuracy was its second-lowest since 1966 and its lowest in 40 years. Paraguay’s 63.2% passing accuracy was the 10th-worst mark ever over that time period.
94 MIN: The final whistle blows. Final score reads Italy 1, Paraguay 1.
93 MIN: Free kick to Paraguay after a questionable call on Chiellini results to nothing more than a turnover.
90 MIN: Three minutes of added time.
86 MIN: Five minutes and stoppages left and Italy look a lot more dangerous than they did at the beginning of the half. Pepe sends in a couple dangerous crosses via a free kick and two corners but nothing comes of it.
83 MIN: Montolivo dials it up from long distance and forces a good save out of Villar. The resulting corner is cleared without much trouble.
80 MIN: Nice break for the Azzurri as Di Natale feeds Pepe on the left flank. The new Juve winger has a crack but it's right at Villar.
78 MIN: Di Natale wins a corner and this time Villar gets a hold of it. That has to do wonders for his confidence after completely missing the equalizer.
76 MIN: Paraguay sub: Cardozo comes on for Barrios.
72 MIN: Di Natale coming on for Gilardino.
70 MIN: Gilardino with a quality chance inside the box but couldn't get much behind it and sees it blocked. Seconds later Camoranesi booked for a sloppy challenge on Vera.
68 MIN: News on Buffon. Sounds like a hamstring injury for Superman.
Also, a sub from Paraguay as Santa Cruz comes on.
66 MIN: Barrios cuts one back at the edge of the box and just misses the substitute Santana. Close call for Italy.
63 MIN: GOAL ITALY! Villar misstimes the corner, misses it completely, and De Rossi slams it home. The Azzurri are bailed out by the keeper and we're tied up at 1-1. Italy must use this to their advantage.
62 MIN: V. Caceres shown a yellow for a bad tackle on Montolivo.
60 MIN: Paraguay sub: Santana for Torres.
58 MIN: Italy sub: Camoranesi and his lovely hair comes on for Juve teammate Marchisio. He gets involved right away sending in a dangerous cross which Villar handles at the far post.
55 MIN: Montolivo tries one from just outside the box and unlike Robert Green, Villar handles the shot right in front of him with no trouble at all.
54 MIN: Vera comes up with a loose ball in the box and tries to slam it home but it whizzes just wide of the near post.
53 MIN: Pepe tries an ambitious bicycle on a Zambrotta cross. Not very successful.
52 MIN: Paraguay has had a much better start to the second half than the first. They win a corner but it results in only a shot blasted well over the crossbar.
46 MIN: Shocking sub from Lippi as the second half starts. It's not on offense, but in defense. Buffon comes off (possible injury?) and backup Federico Marchetti comes on.
Italy have to do something. Chances are being created but not taken advantage of. Montolivo had a golden chance but got absolutely nothing on it, crosses have been sent in towards Gilardino and Iaquinta but haven't been put away. Lippi needs to change something whether it's tactically or with his personnel.
As for Paraguay, just keep doing what you're doing. The defense has bent a couple times but hasn't been broken. They have the lead on one of the few times they've ventured into Buffon's box. If Italy continue to struggle in the final third, Paraguay's chances to win look pretty good.
45 MIN +1: Halftime whistle blows and Paraguay take a shocking 1-0 lead into the dressing room. Italy has dominated, but it hasn't shown on the scoreboard.
43 MIN: More talk of sexy players as Captain Cannavaro goes down with an injury. He's trying to fight through it but his limp is pretty apparent.
39 MIN: GOAL PARAGUAY! Awful defending on the free kick from the Italy defense. Lippi in shock on the sidelines. Alcaraz slips between Cannavaro and De Rossi and heads it past Buffon, who had no chance. 1-0.
But then again, if the ref called a handball on Paraguay instead of a foul on Italy, this might have been a totally different game.
32 MIN: ESPN announcers mention Roque Santa Cruz was voted "The Sexiest Player of the 2006 World Cup" during a shot to the bench. Cool. Any other random info for us?
28 MIN: Criscito wins a free kick by the corner flag. Marchisio's service is cleared out at the near post for a corner. Alcaraz makes a dangerous clearance that gives Italy another corner but that one is cleared.
22 MIN: Two more quality chances from the Azzurri. Pepe's dangerous free kick is cleared before Iaquinta got a head on it and then a Gilardino header goes wide.
20 MIN: Paraguay wins consecutive corners but it results in nothing.
Montolivo and Torres completely blow golden opportunities at each end within a matter of seconds. Might the weather be playing a factor?
18 MIN: Zambrotta sends in a dangerous cross towards Gilardino but it sails just a bit high and misses the Italy hitman's head. Zambrotta has looked lively so far offensively.
14 MIN: The rain is coming down even harder as Italy continue to dominate the ball.
11 MIN: De Rossi goes down for who knows what after making a nice run through the middle. The Roma midfielder is certainly making himself look interesting with that beard of his, isn't he?
9 MIN: Italy have had the majority of possession. Unfortunately for Italy, the three or four chances in the final third have come up with nothing on goal.
3 MIN: Italy earn the first corner of the match. Pepe spins it in but it doesn't amount to anything of note.
1 MIN: Montolivo down after getting cleated on his left shin. Ouch.
0 MIN: Gilardino and Marchisio standing over the ball and we're underway!
11:25 AM PST: National anthems are played and we're ready for kickoff.
11:20 AM PST: Raining in Cape Town as the teams come out for introductions.
10:50 AM PST: For Italy, the key players will be the M&M Boys, Montolivo and Marchisio. Neither have a ton of international experience on the senior level, but both had fine club seasons this year. And there's added pressure on Montonlivo to come up with a big performance seeing as he's filling in for midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo.
For Paraguay, it's Barrios. With Roque Santa Cruz starting from the bench, Barrios will be Paraguay's main threat up top.
10:35 AM PST: Official lineups announced.
Just as we thought for Italy with a 4-2-3-1: Buffon; Zambrotta, Cannavaro, Chiellini, Criscito; De Rossi, Montolivo; Pepe, Marchisio, Iaquinta; Gilardino
For Paraguay in a 4-4-2: Villar; Bonet, Alcaraz, Da Silva, Moral; Vera, V. Caceres, Riveros, Aureliano Torres; Valdez, Barrios
10:25 AM PST: Looks like Lippi has set his starting lineup. Not definite, but it's looking like a 4-2-3-1 with Buffon in goal, Criscito, Chiellini, Cannavaro, and Zambrotta from left to right in the back with Montolivo and De Rossi in front of the defense. Iaquinta, Marchisio, and Pepe from left to right in attack with Gilardino as the lone striker.
When the lineups are officially announced, they'll be posted.
It has seemed like an eternity, but today is the day that defending champ Italy finally gets the chance to take the field and defend its title.
Age to key players like captain Fabio Cannavaro, questionable roster decisions, and an injury to midfielder Andrea Pirlo have not done anything to quiet the skepticism that surrounds Marcello Lippi's squad. Add in two lackluster performances against Mexico and Switzerland, and there's a whole lot of pressure on Lippi's shoulders.
But one thing is for certain—when Italy is on the biggest stage, the Azzurri up their game.
Italy's opponent, Paraguay, will be appearing in its fourth consecutive World Cup. After making the Round of 16 in both 1998 and 2002, Paraguay failed to make it out of the group stage in Germany four years ago.
Unlike most South American teams, Paraguay isn't very flashy. Paraguay coach Gerrardo Martino has a more functional than creative squad. And on paper Paraguay looks to be Italy's toughest challenge in the group stage.
Marco Materazzi might be too busy to watch the World Cup, but we're not. Kickoff is in about 90 minutes. Join me as I will be live blogging before, during, and after Italy vs. Paraguay in Group F's opener.