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Brazil and Italy look to shine Brazil and Italy look to shine

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Having got over their opening-game nerves, tournament contenders Italy and Brazil will both be looking to make a statement of intent with handsome victories on Sunday. The two sides boast a total of nine FIFA World Cup™ triumphs between them and will take on respective opponents New Zealand and Côte d'Ivoire hoping to raise the quality of their play another notch.
Five-time champions Brazil find themselves in the tightest-looking section of all in Group G, but after edging their way past a tenacious Korea DPR team they will be keen to slip into a more fluid gear. Sven-Goran Eriksson's Côte d'Ivoire are unlikely to let them have it all their own way, however, as they seek their first goals following an opening stalemate with Portugal. In Group F, all four teams are locked together on a point apiece, meaning Italy have little option but to deliver a victory. They look well-equipped to see off New Zealand in Nelspruit, but so too did Slovakia before the All Whites struck late on to clinch their first ever FIFA World Cup finals point. Vladimir Weiss's Slovakians will look to recover from that setback in their high-stakes meeting with a Paraguay side noted for their defensive solidity and fearsome counter-attacking credentials.
The matches
Slovakia-Paraguay, Group F, Mangaung/Bloemfontein, 13.30
Italy-New Zealand, Group F, Nelspruit, 16.00
Brazil-Côte d'Ivoire, Group G, Johannesburg (Soccer City), 20.30
The big gameBrazil-Côte d'Ivoire
Frustrated for the opening 55 minutes of their opening encounter, Brazil spared their blushes with a pair of finely worked goals in the hard-fought 2-1 win over Korea DPR. If fans of O jogo bonito ('The beautiful game') were a little frustrated by the display, despite the best efforts of a lively Robinho, Dunga's charges still got the result they wanted and will next line up against an Ivorian side who gave Portugal a difficult afternoon. With so many gifted individuals peppered through the ranks of both teams, anything could happen at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg – even if most eyes will be trained on Kaka and Didier Drogba, the former desperate to impress after an under-par showing against the north Koreans and the latter still wearing a cast on his arm.
In focus
Federico Marchetti (ITA) v Mark Paston (NZL)
While Marchetti came into the tournament anticipating a stint on the bench behind Italy's first-choice goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, Paston travelled to South Africa doubtless expecting a difficult time up against the assorted marksmen in Group F. Events have moved in a different direction with Cagliari custodian Marchetti due to fill in for his injured colleague and New Zealand's No1 having put in a superb display against Slovakia. Paston may well be the busier man on Sunday but Marchetti will be desperate to make a good impression too.
What they said
"Sven Goran Eriksson has urged us to play as a team and not just for ourselves. He's changed the mentality of the side and everyone in it. We've always had good players but we've never been able to play as a coherent unit and attack and defend together,” Kolo Toure, Côte d'Ivoire defender.

A moveable feast: A perennial presence at major tournaments, Italy know how to travel and did not make the trip to South Africa empty-handed. Copying their shopping list from Germany 2006, they packed 250kg of pasta, 200kg of parmesan cheese, 400kg of peeled tomatoes, 60kg of coffee (and the machines to make it), 20 cooked hams, 20 uncooked hams, 60kg of dried beef and 200 litres of extra virgin olive oil. Enough to last them through to the Final…
Five million happy customers: Brazil’s match against Côte d'Ivoire will see them break the five-million barrier in terms of the number of supporters who have watched them play at the FIFA World Cup since 1930. The South Americans have entertained 4,974,431 spectators down the years, putting them ahead of Germany, who have been watched by 4,703,660 fans, and Italy, who have attracted 3,999,869. The highest attendance at a FIFA World Cup match remains the 'Final' between Brazil and Uruguay at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro on 16 July 1950, when 173,850 people saw Uruguay prevail 2-1.
Long-haired Herbert: New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert still harbours fond memories of the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain, when he served as a first-choice defender for his country. "I was able to swap my shirt with Socrates of Brazil," he recalled. "I still have it and I hope he still has mine." Current captain Ryan Nelsen has a rather different recollection of the tournament, however. "I was five at the time," began the Blackburn Rovers man, before stealing a quick glance at Herbert's slightly balding pate. "The only thing I remember is the horrible haircut the coach had, when he had all that long hair."

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