De Rossi Rescues Sluggish Italy In World Cup Opener
Tuesday, 15th June 2010 at 10:37am
Traditional slow starters and defending champions Italy began the defence of its title in familiar fashion as the Azzurri came from behind to draw 1-1 with South American side Paraguay in Cape Town thanks to a goal from Roma star Daniele De Rossi.
Italy has come into the tournament under a cloud of pessimism which has seen the 2006 winners labelled the worst reigning champions in World Cup history.
But Marcelo Lippi's men will draw comfort from the fact that they began the 2006 tournament with a 1-1 draw with the USA, a game in which De Rossi was shown a red card, before going on to lift their fourth title.
At one stage, however, it seemed as though the doomsayers may have been correct as Paraguay started brightly, missing a couple of decent chances before Antolin Alcaraz's header gave Paraguay the lead.
Worse was to follow for Lippi's men, when goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was taken off at half time with a back injury.
Denied the creativity of 2006 final man-of-the-match Andrea Pirlo combined with an aging squad with few attacking stars, a way back into the game looked unlikely but Italy was gifted an equaliser when Paraguay 'keeper Villar flapped at Pepe's corner and De Rossi arrived to level the scores.
Once level, the Azzurri were in the ascendency but were unable to find a winning goal and had to settle for a point.
In other matches on Monday, June 14, Holland got their campaign off to a winning start, while Japan secured a first World Cup win on foreign soil.
In the first match of the day in Group E, the highly fancied Netherlands made an unspectacular start to its campaign with a 2-0 over European rivals Denmark.
Both sides created a couple of chances in the first half, but it was the Dutch who made the breakthrough when an header from Danish defender Simon Poulsen, via a deflection off Daniel Agger, crept inside the far post.
The Dutch restricted the Danes to a couple of long range efforts and finally doubled the lead in the 89th minute when Dirk Kuyt pounced to strike from close range after the impressive Eljero Elia's shot had struck the woodwork.
In the second group fixture, a first half strike from Keisuke Honda was enough to earn Japan its first World Cup victory away from Japan in a dour encounter with African side Cameroon.
Paul le Guen's side enjoyed the lion's share of the possession but were unable to create much of note, but did come close to what would have been a deserved equaliser, such was the defensive nature of the Japanese, when Stephane Mbia's long range shot smacked against the crossbar.