Paraguay (1-0-1, 4 pts.) — The class of the group so far battled Italy even and dominated Slovakia. Surprisingly good I’d say in all aspects and definitely capable of a couple more wins.
Italy (0-0-2, 2 pts.) — One of the tournament’s biggest disappointments so far. Defending World Cup champs couldn’t even beat the lowly Kiwis, with the help of a soft penalty-kick no less.
New Zealand (0-0-2, 2 pts.) — Considered an afterthought coming into the tournament, heck they beat Bahrain to qualify after the likes of Fiji and Vanuatu. Perhaps of the darlings of the field so far.
Slovakia (0-1-1, 1 pts.) — Italy doesn’t have many friends in the soccer world, so I’m sure many will be rooting on Marek Hamsik and Co. to earn one last result against the Azzurri. Not sure they will though.
What stands out so far
1. Sorry Italy — Awful. And not just the diving. Perhaps the least likable team is also severely underperforming. Though to be fair, a lot of people thought they were overrated. Maybe not this much.
2. Inspiring Kiwis — A bunch of guys from small leagues and the fringes of bigger national team pools haven’t been beat. It’s a joy to watch them play, even without the one tenth the quality of a Brazil.
3. Sleeper Paraguay — Roque Santa Cruz would be a welcome starter as a forward on most mid-level teams. That fact that he’s a borderline starter should’ve been a warning sign to their quality.
1. M Enrique Vera, Paraguay
2. GK Mark Paston, New Zealand
3. M Riccardo Montolivo, Italy
Even the underachievers can make up for a slow start with a third-game win. Italy would surely be better of full strength, but should have enough to move on in a weak group (to face the Netherlands). Expect Paraguay to roll on through, if you dare to expect anything in this tournament.