Defending World Cup champs Italy draw in 2010 opener | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 14.06.2010
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Defending World Cup champs Italy draw in 2010 opener

In 2006, Italy won the World Cup in a penalty shootout against France. In their 2010 World Cup debut, the defending champs have drawn against Paraguay in a rainy Group F match.

Italy celebrates De Rossi's goal

De Rossi knocked in an excellent corner from Pepe

It took more than a full half for Italy's offense to get going in Tuesday night's Group F match against Paraguay, but the defending World Cup champions managed to find their footing and play to a 1-1 draw.

Paraguay celebrates Alcaraz's goal

Alcaraz was at the bottom of a jubilant pile following his goal

In the 63rd minute, Italian midfielder Simone Pepe delivered a low, fast corner right in front of the goal. None of Paraguay's defenders got a touch on the ball before a sprinting Daniele De Rossi slid in and drove home the goal.

Paraguay's goal came near the end of the first half. Aureliano Torres sent a perfect free kick from distance to the top of the goal box, where Antolin Alcaraz got the best jump and connected for a header in the 39th minute.

Nearly four years ago, Italy celebrated its fourth World Cup title with a penalty shootout victory over France. For this year's World Cup, coach Marcello Lippi has selected nine players from the 2006 team, giving the Italians one of the oldest teams in the tournament.

The Azzurri are led by long-time national defender Fabio Cannavaro, who is making his fourth World Cup appearance.

Before the match in Cape Town, hundreds of security stewards walked off the job in a labor dispute over wages. Local police have taken over security duties at Green Point Stadium, and the game was not delayed.

Japan holds on

Earlier in the day, Japan didn't get many chances to score against Cameroon in Group E , but it only took one solid offensive sequence to give the Japanese a 1-0 victory.

Keisuke Honda scores

Honda received the cross beautifully before scoring

Japan's goal came in the 39th minute from a textbook cross play. Daisuke Matsui crossed from the right wing to the opposite side of the goal and found Keisuke Honda all alone. Honda briefly controlled the ball and then slipped it past Cameroon's keeper Hamidou Souleymanou.

The Japanese spent most of the game fighting off attacking waves from Cameroon, who were led by striker Samuel Eto'o. The second half in particular seemed to feature constant tries by Cameroon to set up plays, only to have the ball cleared time and again by the Japanese. Shots that did find their way to the goal were cleanly handled by Japan's Eiji Kawashima, who had a good day between the posts.

Cameroon's defender Stephane Mbia very nearly got the equalizer five minutes before time with a thundering blast from well outside the area that rattled the crossbar.

Headed for an own goal

Danish defender Simon Poulsen inadvertently took the idea of "keep your head in the game" too far in Denmark's Group E match against the Netherlands in Johannesburg. A misguided header resulted in an own-goal, giving the Netherlands the only goal they needed on their way to a 2-0 win.

The ball bounces off Daniel Agger and into after Simon Poulson's header

Simon Poulsen's header (right) deflected off Daniel Agger (center) and rolled into the Danish goal

Just after both teams returned to the pitch following a scoreless first half, the Netherlands had possession and were moving the ball down the pitch. Dutch striker Robin van Persie took a pass near the end line and crossed the ball in front of the goal. Danish defender Daniel Agger leapt for the ball to try and clear it, but it sailed over his head, leaving Poulsen to head it out of the area. But instead of clearing the ball, Poulsen's header glanced off Agger's back and rolled into the corner of his own goal. Danish keeper Thomas Sorensen was standing on the other side of the net and could only watch the ball trickle over the line.

The second goal for the Netherlands involved a bit of luck as well. Dutch striker Eljero Elia took a shot from close range, which Sorensen managed to get a hand on and deflect into the post. The ball bounced back into play, where Elia's teammate Dirk Kuyt cleanly sent the rebound to the back of the net for the game's final goal.

The Netherlands and Japan are tied on points at the top of Group E, with the Dutch having the better goal differential.

Author: Matt Zuvela
Editor: Michael Lawton

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