The World Cup holders, Italy kicked off their tournament with an uninspiring 1-1 draw against Paraguay. In a game that started as if both teams would settle for a goalless draw, it was Paraguay that took the lead. Poor defending from a free kick on the left wing allowed Antolin Alcaraz to head past ‘keeper Buffon in the Italian goal. Neither team looked like taking a strong hold on the match, despite the South Americans holding a one goal lead. After goalkeeping blunders in two games in the last three days, it was no surprise to see another keeper being left red faced. From an Italian corner half way through the second half, the Paraguay keeper came out, one fist in the air, and missed the ball by about two yards, leaving Daniele De Rossi to poke into an empty goal. The game finished level, a result that would probably leave Paraguay the happier of the two teams. The reigning champions have a reputation of being slow starters in major tournaments, so Italian fans can only hope there is more to come from Italy.
Japan versus Cameroon was never really set to be a classic, so it was no surprise that it rivaled France against Uruguay for the dullest tie so far. The 1-0 win for Japan was probably a shock to many, but they only just edged it. The playing of Samuel Eto’o on the right wing for Cameroon did raise some eyebrows, and they were probably justified, as Cameroon really didn’t threaten the Japanese goal. The match never really materialised into a hard fought tie, with Japan finally seizing the opportunity and taking one of the few chances created. Cameroon were very disappointing, and the team that many believed would be the most successful African side at the World Cup, look as if they could be heading home after the group stage.
Holland were one of the teams to suffer an injury worry prior to the tournament, with playmaker Arjen Robben suffering a groin strain in their final warm up match. Robben, however was fit enough to make the bench for the Netherlands opener against Demnark, putting an end to the worry that he wouldn’t be fit to play any part in the tournament. The Dutch team overcame Denmark by two goals to nil, providing a comfortable win, without really showing their full potential to go far in the World Cup. Holland’s first goal will go down in many World Cup bloopers programmes to come. A cross from the wing was headed back across his own goal by Denmark’s Simon Poulson, hitting his team mate Daniel Agger in the back and past Thomas Sorensen in the Denmark goal. The win was sealed when Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt followed up Eljero Elia’s rebounding shot and side footed the ball into an empty net, giving Holland a steady foundation to build on and prepare for their tie with Cameroon, next Saturday.