The last time we saw Italy at the World Cup Final, they were saying rude things about people's sisters, getting head butted, and dancing gleefully with the trophy. They are back with much of the same crew intact. They still have that mad handsome dashing cat between the posts, Gianluigi Buffon. If he's not the best goalkeeper in the world, he's certainly on the short list. But they're old and they're slow and Gatusso, the barking dog, is getting long in tooth, his bark becoming increasingly worse than his bite. Yes, they will get through this round, if for no other reason than Buffon is no buffoon. But will they be the first repeat winners since Brazil almost half a century ago? I don't think so. No, make that, absolutely not. New Zealand? I just don't see it team named after a fruit, even a fruit as adorable as a kiwi, making it through. Slovakia? They got to South Africa courtesy of a Polish own goal, so I believe they are doomed. Paraguay's best player has a world-class name, Roque Santa Cruz. The fact that they hacked their way out of the jungles of South America, (good preparation for success in almost any field) I believe they will make it through to the next round.
GROUP F: YES: Italy & Paraguay NO: New Zealand, Slovakia
David Henry Sterry is, along with San Francisco literary legend Alan Black, author of The Glorious World Cup: A Fanatic's Guide. With contributions by Po Bronson, Irvine Welch, and Simon Kuiper