Italy Vs. Paraguay 2010 FIFA World Cup: 10 Players to Watch
The World Cup has been under way since Friday, but the defending Champion has yet to play...until now.
Italy is prepared for their first game of this year's tournament as they come in ranked No. 5 in the FIFA World rankings.
The team is a heavy favorite against Paraguay, a country ranked 31st.
Paraguay, however, assembles a well-organized team that was able to upset Argentina to qualify for this year's World Cup.
Could Paraguay upset the Champion? They'll need to stop these Italian players and hope their own stars step up in the making.
Here are the 10 players to watch in Italy vs. Paraguay:
No. 10: Genaro Gattuso, Italy
We'll start with the retiring Italian midfielder, Genaro Gattuso.
Gattuso was an integral part of the 2006 Championship team and is known as one of the best defensive midfielders in the entire sport.
Known as “Ringhio,” translated to growl, he has been one of the most fiery competitors in soccer over the past 10 years.
His craftiness has helped the Italian team play the staunch defense they have been known for. In 2006, he was named Man of the Match against Ukraine in the quarterfinals.
Unfortunately for him, injuries and age have begun to slow him up. As he approaches age 33, he is hoping to impact his team in any way possible.
As a member of A.C. Milan this past year, he played sparingly in between nursing his injuries. While he may not see a ton of action, he is an important part of the team.
With aspirations to one day coach Italy, Gattuso knows his final World Cup as a player could resonate in the future.
Look for him to have a case of possible rejuvenation, as he may be the best player to replace Andrea Pirlo.
No. 9: Fabio Cannavarro, Italy
Fabio Canavarro, The Captain.
Canavarro, the most capped Italian player of all time with 133, enters his final World Cup at age 36. He captained the 2006 squad and hopes to lead his country to a repeat.
Canavarro is an extremely skilled defender who takes pride in his defensive work. In 2006, he was named the FIFA Player of the Year, the only defender to ever win the award.
He played every minute of the 2006 World Cup and never received a yellow or red card. He is most known for his calm demeanor and helps set the tone for the Italian team throughout each match.
Cannavarro may not be a scorer, but watching him orchestrate the Italian defense makes it clear why they were able to win in 2006.
No. 8: Justo Villar, Paraguay
Don't worry—we didn't forget about Paraguay.
If the country has any chance of winning, it must start with goalkeeper Justo Villar.
Injured in the 2006 World Cup, just minutes into his first appearance as starter, Villar seeks a second chance.
The 32-year-old enters this year's tournament as an extremely experienced and solid goaltender. Playing in Spain for Real Valladolid, he has helped keep his squad respectable.
He has incredible instincts that help make up for his lack of height in the net.
It'll be interesting to see how much pressure the defense in front of him can handle.
With him as the last line of defense against Italy, Villar must make up for his lost time in 2006.
No. 7: Mauro Camoranesi, Italy
Mauro Camoranesi has found himself in a peculiar situation the past couple tournaments.
He has dual citizenship between Italy and Argentina but chose in 2006 to play for the Italians. This year he returns to play with Italy.
Camoranesi is a midfielder who is very active on the field. He is often a key contributor to Italy's scoring, whether it be setting up another player or scoring goals of his own.
He scored a goal in a qualifying game against Ireland in October 2009 and looks prepared to make a large impact on the team.
Like many of his teammates, this may be his last hurrah. He 33 years old and must use his abilities to help keep Italy on the attack.
No. 6: Andrea Pirlo's Replacement, Italy
Andrea Pirlo is a midfielder known for his unique style on the field.
The 31-year-old Pirlo is an extremely crafty goal scorer and was an integral part of the 2006 World Cup. In that tournament he contributed with goals and assists in various match-ups.
This year, unfortunately, he is out early in the tournament and will need to be replaced.
Two possible replacements have emerged, and today marks the first time they can show why they should replace him.
Palombo is known as a tough and aggressive midfielder. As the captain of his club Sampdoria squad, he has a natural leadership ability that can carry onto the field.
He is an extremely talented athlete, and while he may not have the unique style of Pirlo, he is a passionate player.
Palombo is only 29 and has a motor that could be extremely vital for the Italians. Look for him to get the first crack at replacing him.
The previously mentioned Gattuso could use Pirlo's misfortune to rejuvenate himself. With his style of play and experience, he could help make up for the loss of Pirlo in different ways.
If all else fails, the replacement spot may come down to Montolivo.
He is known for his great vision and understanding of his teammates, as well as his ability to get them the ball. He has great fundamentals, and his straightforward style could only help the Italians.
He is only 25 years old, and his fresh legs and athletic ability could help Italy overcome Pirlo's injury.
If any of these guys can step up and replace him, it would be huge for the depth and confidence of Italy.
No. 5: Gianluca Zambrotta, Italy
Gianluca Zambrotta is another aging Italian defender but offers up one of their most versatile players.
He is a smart defender who can play all sides of the field. He matches up well with other defenders and uses his sense of the ball to force opposing teams into mistakes.
Zambrotta offers what the Italy team seeks to take advantage of: a tough style of defense that uses brains and savvy to outmatch their opponents.
Look for Zambrotta to be the most important defender in helping Italy keep the crown for 2006 and shutting down Paraguay's top players today.
No. 4: Giorgio Chiellini, Italy
Giorgio Chiellini, one of the best center backs in the world, will help lead the Italian attack.
One of the youngest members of the Italian team, he brings fresh blood to the squad that won in 2006. He is a powerful scorer and solid defensive player.
Chiellini encompasses a new wave of youth the Italian team needs to step up in this tournament. In international competition prior to the World Cup, he has been a staple on the field and a favorite of the team.
Look for him to step up early and keep teams on their heels, as his athletic ability mixed with the savviness of his surrounding teammates should be a nice bonus for this year's squad.
No. 3: Daniele De Rossi, Italy
Daniele De Rossi, a midfielder for the Italy team, stands as another one of the squad's young players.
As a member of the 2006 World Cup team, he played sparingly, mainly due to a nasty elbow he laid on Brian McBride.
He enters this World Cup with more experience and a better mindset than before. He was still able to contribute last time but will be looked upon in a starting role to lead the attack.
He is a solid goal scorer who can set up teammates well and lead the team.
Many see him as a future captain of the Italians and this would be the tournament to gain even more favor for that honor.
No. 2: Roque Santa Cruz, Paraguay
It has been a while since a Paraguay player got mentioned, but with Roque Santa Cruz, Paraguay may have the second best player in this game.
As a member of Manchester City, Santa Cruz has been able to show off his incredible skills as a striker.
He finishes strong at the net and will set the tone for his country. He uses an extremely quick burst of speed to help set the pace for games.
While his team may be over-matched in many areas, Santa Cruz could be the silver lining needed. If he can get himself away from the swarming Italian defense, it may just be enough to help out his squad.
Although he struggled with injuries for Manchester City this past year, Santa Cruz scored 23 goals in 57 appearances from 2007-2009 for Blackburn Rovers.
Look for him to be healthy and attacking the net as he attempts to beat the Italians.
Of course, if he is able to get some shots on net, he isn't facing the average goalie...
No. 1: Gianluigi Gigi Buffon
In 2006, Gigi Buffon could have stopped a bullet.
The goalkeeper was that good, as he allowed only two goals all tournament, one courtesy of his own teammate.
He enters this World Cup with a reputation as the best goalie in the world and perhaps one of the best in history.
Playing on Juventus, he has missed plenty of time due to injury. It will be interesting to see how Buffon responds to a lackluster season in this tournament.
With an aging defense and the odds stacked against a repeat, Gigi Buffon will need to match his 2006 performance and show the world he's still the best.