Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Sports News

Italy held to 1-1 draw; Netherlands, Japan win

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[June 15, 2010]  JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- Defending champion Italy looked more like pretender than credible contender for a second straight World Cup title, and the flying form of the Netherlands never really got off the ground.

The Italians, who came into the World Cup with questions about an aging squad, were held to a 1-1 draw by Paraguay in Group F in Cape Town. In fact, the Azzurri had to rally on Daniele De Rossi's second-half goal to get the one point.

The Dutch, who went unbeaten in qualifying with a potent offense, struggled to get going at Soccer City but still managed a 2-0 win over Denmark in Group E. In the other Group E match, Keisuke Honda scored to lead Japan over Cameroon 1-0 in Bloemfontein.

Antolin Alcaraz gave Paraguay the lead at the Green Point Stadium with a header in the 39th minute of the rainy Group F match, and De Rossi equalized for Italy from close range in the 63rd.


"The biggest regret is the result," Italy coach Marcello Lippi said. "They only approached the goal once and they scored. We reacted well, but you've got to win games likes these."

Italy played the second half without goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who left the game with a sciatic nerve injury.

"He had a back problem," Lippi said. "I hope he's back for the next game, but that will be up to the doctors."

Buffon said he will be ready for the next match.

"It was a good result, though we can't say we played really well," Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino said. "We have to take into account who is who. It's not easy to play first against the last world champion."

In Johannesburg, Dirk Kuyt scored one goal for the Dutch, who came into the tournament in South Africa expecting to show the world some beautiful, free-flowing soccer. But the other goal came when Denmark defender Simon Poulsen headed a ball off the back of teammate Daniel Agger and into his own net.

"We wanted to play beautiful football but we lost the ball," Netherlands coach Bert Van Marwijk said. "From time to time you could see how good we can be."

The Netherlands took the lead in the 46th minute when Poulsen tried to clear a cross from Robin van Persie. Instead, it went off Agger's back and into the net.

"I was just thinking, this can't be happening," Poulsen said of the freak goal.

Kuyt added the second goal in the 85th minute when he tapped in a rebound off the post from close range.

In Bloemfontein, Japan won its first match at a World Cup on foreign soil when Honda scored in the 39th from a curling cross by Daisuke Matsu.

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"I found a good position and the ball was very good," Honda said. "I just told myself to be calm to make it, because recently we have missed good chances, so I wanted to make it absolute today."

Cameroon didn't get its offense on track until the second half, but never found the net despite the presence of star striker Samuel Eto'o.

"We were too nervous in the first half. We lost many, many balls because we were nervous and that is why I am disappointed tonight," Cameroon coach Paul Le Guen said. "They were not playing to their best of their ability and we were not able to release our potential this evening, and that is really disappointing."

Through 11 games, there have been eight shutouts, with the only matches where both teams scored coming in 1-1 draws between the United States and England, South Africa and Mexico, and Italy vs. Paraguay. Through Monday, no winning team had allowed a goal.

The Italy-Paraguay match at Green Point Stadium in Cape Town started on time despite a wage dispute between stewards and a security contractor. Police took over responsibility for security both in Cape Town and in Durban.

Also, noise about the vuvuzela went right to the top at FIFA again, with president Sepp Blatter defending the loud plastic horns that are commonplace at soccer matches in South Africa.

"I have always said that Africa has a different rhythm, a different sound," Blatter said in a Twitter message. "I don't see banning the music traditions of fans in their own country."

[Associated Press; By CHRIS LEHOURITES]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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