Wednesday, June 9, 2010

World Cup Previews – Group F

World Cup Previews – Group F

Group F consists of reigning World Champions Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia. With New Zealand and Slovakia having qualified for a World Cup only once between before now, Italy and Paraguay are the favourites to make the last sixteen stage. BetRepublic.com previews the group to see if this will happen.

Outright Group Winner Odds : Soccer Betting Tip

Italy – 4/9

Paraguay – 13/5

Slovakia – 8/1

New Zealand – 40/1

Group Qualification Odds :

Italy – 1/20

Paraguay – 2/5

Slovakia – 11/8

New Zealand – 12/1

These odds were supplied by BetRepublic

The Teams:

The reigning champions and fifth ranked side in the world, Italy are competing in the seventeenth World Cup in South Africa. They and Brazil are the only sides to have won the World Cup twice in a row, having done so in 1934 and 1938, and they are vying to become the first side to win the trophy in successive tournaments twice and to claim their fifth ever World Cup. However, Italy are only the joint sixth favourites with William Hill to claim the trophy this time around and they and Germany have odds 14/1 to take the crown.

They are behind the Netherlands, England and Argentina as well as the front runners Spain and Brazil. The main reason for this is the age of the Italian squad. Their best players in Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro and Gennaro Gattuso are all above thirty and will be retiring from International duty shortly. However, they will want another title to add to their collections. Will South Africa be their swansong?

Their appearance in South Africa will be the eighth time that Paraguay have qualified for a World Cup finals. Of the seven times that they have reached the finals, Paraguay have exited at the group stage four times and been eliminated in the last sixteen stage on the three other occasions. They qualified in third place behind Brazil and Chile in the CONMEBOL qualifying group and sealed their place in the finals with a 1-0 win over Argentina.

So overjoyed with his country’s achievement was the president he declared the following day a national holiday for his people to celebrate qualifying for the World Cup! Paraguay’s main problem in the past has been their attacking play, but they seem to have sorted that out for this campaign and they scored twenty-four goals in their eighteen qualifying games – one more goal that Argentina! – while holding the second best defensive record.

New Zealand last qualified for a World Cup in 1982, where they were beaten by Brazil, the Soviet Union and Scotland, conceding twelve goals and scoring just twice. They qualified for South Africa after beating Bahrain 1-0 on aggregate in their playoff match. New Zealand are currently ranked 78th in the world and, unfortunately, I do not see this World Cup going any differently for them than the 1982 finals in Spain did. Expect New Zealand to finish bottom of the group without a victory.

Since becoming independent from Czechoslovakia in 1993, Slovakia have failed to reach a World Cup finals. They have, however, improved steadily over the years – finishing fourth in the qualifying group for France 1998, third for Japan/Korea 2002, second for Germany 2006 and topping their group for South Africa.

The topped UEFA Group 3 ahead of Slovenia while the big guns of the Czech Republic and Poland floundered, finishing third and fifth – six and eleven points behind the group winners respectively. They found the going tough but managed to secure their place at the finals with a 1-0 in Poland on the final matchday ahead of Slovenia, who managed to qualify via the playoffs. Slovakia are not a spectacular side but if they are on top of their game they will not be easy opponents for anyone in the group.

Who will progress to the last sixteen stage?

The bookmakers have Italy odds on to win the group and Paraguay odds on to qualify and I cannot find any argument to disagree with either of these odds. Italy have the experience and ability to win the group while Paraguay are comfortably better than both New Zealand and Slovakia. New Zealand do not have a pool of talent big enough to make an impact at the World Cup and will just make up the numbers. Slovakia should have no problems seeing off New Zealand but do not have enough in them to challenge either of the bigger two sides for a place in the last sixteen.

BetRepublic Recommends: Back Italy to win the group @ 4/9 and Paraguay to qualify @ 2/5.

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