Dentist by day, football prognosticator by night, our own Dr. Hadi Zogheib is scouting out each group at World Cup 2010 and predicting first round scores and standings. Today, the good doctor explains why he won’t be betting against the defending champions in Group F:
Italy: Coach Marcelo Lippi has received heaps of criticism regarding his squad selection this time around. Notable omissions from the Azzuri include Antonio Cassano, Fabrizio Miccoli, Luca Toni, and, of course Francesco Totti. Questionable inclusions include Gianluca Zambrotta, Gennaro Gattuso, and even capitano Fabio Cannavaro, all of whom are believed to be too old and slow to compete this time around. Then again, Lippi is a world champion. The critics are not. Look for Italy to challenge again.
Paraguay: Take a glance at the South American qualifying results, and you’ll notice that Paraguay took 10 out of a possible 18 points against the other South American qualifiers, including wins against Argentina and Brazil. Having a Paraguayan mother has allowed Argentine Lucas Barrios of Dortmund to join the squad, and he has scored in every friendly he has played in. Expect him to have a big tournament. The men in red and white will also have a great incentive to play well for their teammate Salvador Cabanas, who is recovering from a bullet wound to the head suffered in an altercation at a Mexican nightclub in January. This team will be no pushover.
Slovakia: The Slovaks were the surprise winners of their group in qualifying, finishing ahead of the more fancied Slovenia, Poland, and the Czech Republic. They will be heavily reliant on their solitary superstar, Marik Hamsek of Napoli. Hamsek will no doubt want to have a great tournament to showcase his talents to the big clubs, such as Inter and Chelsea, both of whom are reported to be interested in the spiky-haired one.
New Zealand: Shayne Smeltz may have been a scoring machine against the likes of New Caledonia and Fiji, but I doubt he’ll have the same luck against slightly tougher opponents like Italy and Paraguay. The Kiwis will hope to gain some valuable experience and pop in a goal or two. Here’s hoping FIFA will allow them to do the Haka dance before the game like the All Blacks rugby team!
Italy 1-1 Paraguay
New Zealand 0-1 Slovakia
Italy 4-0 New Zealand
Paraguay 2-1 Slovakia
Paraguay 2-0 New Zealand
Slovakia 1-2 Italy
Italy 7 pts
Paraguay 7 pts
Slovakia 3 pts
New Zealand 0 pts
Related: Dr. Z doubts the host’s chances in Group A, expects Greece’s defence-first philsophy will pay off in Group B, and predicts an opening-round sweep for England in Group C. The good doctor expects a three-way dogfight in Group D and is happy to see the Netherlands healthy in Group E.