Group F: Italy, Paraguay, Slovakia, New Zealand
Reigning World Cup champions Italy head Group F alongside Paraguay, Slovakia, and New Zealand. The Italian side will look to win back-to-back World Cup titles, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since Brazil did so back in 1958 and 1962.
Paraguay are becoming perennial World Cup participants and will also feature in Group F. After a disappointing first round exit in Germany, the Paraguayans will want to at least get out of this group.
They will be challenged by Slovakia, a team making their first World Cup appearance (first since the break-up of Czechoslovakia). New Zealand back at the tournament after a 28-year absence round out the teams in a quite appealing group.
What Should Happen
For so long in the shadow of their former countrymen, Slovakia finally exorcized some football demons by beating out the Czech Republic in Europe’s Group 1 to qualify for the World Cup. In fact, the group was quite tricky considering it was full of other quality sides such as Slovenia and Poland. Slovakia however went about their business and despite a slip-up here and there against Slovenia mainly, qualification to South Africa finally came against Poland on the final matchday. This will be the country’s first ever international tournament since becoming an independent nation and while the pressure might be on, this is a talented side who have the makings of a classic tournament sleeper. In Group F with Italy, Paraguay, and New Zealand, the team have the ability to challenge for a place in the Round of 16.
TALE OF THE TAPE
FIFA Ranking: 38
World Cup Appearances: 0
World Cup Record (W-D-L): 0-0-0
Best World Cup Finish: N/A
Road To South Africa: Qualified as 1st-placed team in Europe’s Group 3