Defending champions Italy will naturally be one of the leading contenders to emerge triumphant at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ South Africa. The only country along with Brazil to have won the tournament twice in succession, Marcello Lippi's men will be vying to match the performance of their pioneering predecessors in 1934 and 1938.
The Azzurri topped Group 8 thanks to their traditional efficiency and pragmatism, even if they failed to set the continent alight along the way. In total, they recorded seven wins and three draws, firing 18 goals and conceding seven. Intriguingly, the generations that claimed the world title in 1982 and 2006 also booked their tickets with one match to spare.
ITALIAN FOOTBALL FEDERATION
COACH: MARCELLO LIPPI
ITALIA NATIONAL TEAM
2. NEW ZEALAND
After a disastrous campaign four years ago, New Zealand bounced back in emphatic fashion under coach Ricki Herbert to qualify for their first appearance on the world stage in 28 years following a debut showing at Spain 1982. Herbert, and assistant Brian Turner, were both key figures in the campaign nearly three decades ago. The duo have turned the All Whites into a solid unit whose rearguard, the fifth-placed Asian nation Bahrain was unable to breach over 180 minutes of the intercontinental play-off.
New Zealand topped their Oceania qualification group comfortably winning their first five games before an inconsequential defeat in Fiji with many of the first-team regulars were unavailable. The Kiwis then had an 11-month wait before a two-legged meeting with the fifth-placed Asian nation. Bahrain saw off regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia to earn the right to play New Zealand, having also reached the same stage four years ago, only to fail against Trinidad and Tobago.
NEW ZEALAND FOOTBALL
COACH: RICKI HERBERT
NEW ZEALAND NATIONAL TEAM
Having just put together their best ever qualification campaign, Paraguay are entitled to think big ahead of their fourth consecutive appearance at the FIFA World Cup™ finals. Under the guidance of Argentinian coach Gerardo Martino, the current Albirroja crop look to have what it takes to build on the progress made by their predecessors at France 1998 and Korea/Japan 2002, where the Paraguayans reached the Round of 16 before being knocked out by France and Germany respectively.
Paraguay broke through the 30-point barrier for the first time since the current qualifying system came into being. Recording ten wins (the most in the group along with Chile), three draws and five defeats, they collected 33 points in all to finish third behind the Chileans and Brazil. Martino's side confirmed their ticket to the finals in style with a 1-0 defeat of Argentina in Asuncion in September, with President Fernando Lugo declaring a national holiday to allow the nation to celebrate the achievement.
COACH: GERARDO MARTINO
PARAGUAY FOOTBALL TEAM
Appearing for the first time in a major international competition, Slovakia have been striving to relive the glory years enjoyed by the former Czechoslovakia since going it alone in 1993. Fourth in their section in qualifying for the 1998 FIFA World Cup™ France, third on the road to Korea/Japan 2002 and runners-up ahead of Germany 2006, Slovakia continued their rise by sealing top spot in Group 3. Vladimir Weiss's side booked their historic place on 14 October 2009, upsetting a number of predictions that they would struggle to cope with a difficult pool.
COACH: VLADIMIR WEISS
SLOVAKIAN NATIONAL TEAM
GROUP F MATCHES:
14 JUNE, MON - ITALY V/S PARAGUAY [ CAPE TOWN ]
15 JUNE, TUE - SLOVAKIA V/S NEW ZEALAND [ RUSTENBURG ]
20 JUNE, SUN - ITALY V/S NEW ZEALAND [ NELSPRUIT ]
20 JUNE, SUN - PARAGUAY V/S SLOVAKIA [ BLOENFONTEIN ]
24 JUNE, THU - ITALY V/S SLOVAKIA [ EP, JOHANNESBURG ]
24 JUNE, THU - PARAGUAY V/S NEW ZEALAND [ POLOKWANE ]
FIFA WORLD CUP 2010 SOUTH AFRICA
VUVUZELA - HOW LONG CAN U BLOW ME ?
FIFA WORLD CUP 2010