Italy held to laborious draw by Paraguay

Italy 1 Paraguay 1

Defending champions Italy had to come from behind to salvage a draw in their World Cup Group F opener against Paraguay in Cape Town.





Having played well in the first half at Green Point Stadium the 2006 winners were shocked when Wigan-bound defender Antolin Alcaraz rose to head home a 39th-minute free-kick.



Italy's blushes were spared to some extent, however, as Daniele De Rossi slid in to punish a mistake by Paraguay goalkeeper Justo Villar after 63 minutes and take a point from the match.



As expected, Italy coach Marcello Lippi had left Serie A's top goalscorer Antonio Di Natale on the bench, instead selecting Alberto Gilardino with Vincenzo Iaquinta out wide.



Gerardo Martino also opted to leave out his two highest-profile forwards in Benfica's Oscar Cardozo and Manchester City man Roque Santa Cruz. Instead, Borussia Dortmund team-mates Lucas Barrios and Nelson Valdez were deployed in attack.



Claudio Morel had to be alert to stop Simone Pepe pouncing on a dangerous ball at the back post in the sixth minute as Italy set the early pace.



Their passing and movement was delightful, with Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio central to much of it.



Paraguay did exert some form of pressure midway through the half with two corners, before Riccardo Montolivo broke forward for Italy but could only hit a meek shot at Villar.



In the 22nd minute Aureliano Torres mis-hit a shot which only just bobbled wide of Gianluigi Buffon's goal.



Italy were stunned six minutes before the break when Paraguay went in front from a set-piece.



Torres' launched free-kick from deep was perfectly flighted and with Fabio Cannavaro and De Rossi flailing, Alcaraz headed past Buffon.



Buffon was surprisingly substituted at the break, replaced by Cagliari goalkeeper Federico Marchetti having reportedly suffered a back injury.



Enrique Vera had two sighters for Paraguay while Pepe missed with a spectacular bicycle kick attempt and Montolivo's weak shot was easily saved.



Martino sent on midfielder Jonathan Santana for Torres while Lippi sacrificed Marchisio for Mauro Camoranesi to go 4-4-2 shortly before the hour mark.



Victor Caceres was booked for a late slide on Montolivo before Italy finally made the pressure tell to go level.



Villar horribly missed Pepe's corner from the left, allowing a delighted De Rossi to simply stab the ball home and wheel away in delight.



Italy had a penalty shout denied by Mexican Benito Archundia when Montolivo went down under a robust shoulder challenge from Paulo Da Silva before, at the other end, Barrios found Santana who dragged his shot off target.



Santa Cruz was given his chance in the 68th minute when he came on for Valdez before Camoranesi was booked for a foul on Vera.



Di Natale finally got his opportunity in the 72nd minute when he replaced Gilardino while Cardozo also had a taste when he came on for Barrios.



Good work from Di Natale set up Udinese team-mate Pepe for a half-decent shot while, at the opposite end, Cannavaro blocked a Santa Cruz header.



Montolivo did threaten with an 83rd minute long-range effort which brought out the best in Villar, who sprawled low to his right to save, but Italy were unable to complete the turnaround by snatching a winner.



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