South Africa’s World Cup continued to raise the curtain on soccer’s traditional powers. Argentina had already played and looked good. Germany looked better than that. But after watching Italy slog through a game that will not be long remembered against Paraguay on Monday, it seemed clear that the Italians need an abrupt change of their own if they are going to be a serious threat to defend their title.
It ended, as many a game has in this first round, in a tie — this one a 1-1 draw — and it ended with Italy looking like the fresher, more dangerous team. But this was still a soggy night of negative soccer: of missed connections and brutal tackles, of outstretched arms and accusing glances, of ample effort but so few true opportunities.