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The Cup Running Over


June 19, 2010 9:51 AM

Sunday Preview: Slovakia-Paraguay, Italy-New Zealand, and Brazil-Ivory Coast

The first two games of the day, frankly, look like clinkers; the last could be a classic.

SLOVAKIA-PARAGUAY

Going into the tournament, we would have rated this a close match. And it still may be. But "offensive powerhouse" Slovakia was more offensive than powerhouse against lowly New Zealand and managed to walk away with only a point. Paraguay isn't flashy but it is underrated and as long as it can score -- always a problem -- it seems likely to emerge from the group. We give "Los Abirojas" the edge in an uninteresting match.


ITALY-NEW ZEALAND

Italy is hurting, what with an aging team and an injured Andrea Pirlo and Gigi Buffon. Against even an average team, it might be in trouble. But the Kiwis are awful, notwithstanding their tie with Slovakia in the last game. This match should be a rout -- to the extent the Italians can rout anyone -- which translates into something like 2-0.


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To beat Brazil, Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba needs to have an outstanding game.



BRAZIL-IVORY COAST

It's relatively rare that Brazil ever faces anyone who likes to attack more than it does -- at least when it's playing the Brazilians. But Ivory Coast will. The problem is that it often concedes freely as well. In its last game, however, it actually held a tough opponent scoreless, which either means that Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson has done wonders with this squad or that Portugal is so  deficient offensively that it can't score against anybody. It should be a wide-open game and we don't rule the Elephants out -- especially if iconic striker Didier Drogba is fit -- even though in the end, one has to favor Brazil, striking early and often on the counter.

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