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World Cup preview

Group F at a glance

May 01, 2010|By Grahame L. Jones

GROUP F

ITALY

Coach Marcello Lippi and his cast of characters are back to defend the title won in 2006, but more experienced heads might not make up for older legs. Even so, the usually slow-starting Azzurri should reach the quarterfinals. Remember, though, no Cup champion has repeated since Brazil in 1962.

PARAGUAY

A shooting in a Mexico City nightclub left top goal scorer Roberto Cabanas with a bullet in his head and Paraguay's hopes in tatters. Said Argentina-born Paraguay Coach Gerardo Martino, who has added three Argentina-born players to his roster: "The people will hang me for losing, not for naturalizing players."

SLOVAKIA

Slovakia's first appearance in a major international tournament since the breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1993 could well see Coach Vladimir Weiss's team advance out of the tournament's weakest group. His four key players are defender Martin Skrtel, midfielder Marek Hamsik, striker Stanislav Sestak and his son, winger Vladimir Weiss.

NEW ZEALAND

If this were the rugby World Cup, the Kiwis would be among the favorites. But it's soccer and, despite the positive talk from Coach Ricki Herbert, New Zealand is destined to finish last. Defender Ryan Nelson and midfielder Simon Elliott are the best on a mediocre squad.

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