Star Player (Caps/Goals): Oscar Cardozo (29/4)
Manager: Gerardo Martino
Best W/C Performance: Last 16 (1986,1998, 2002)
Paraguay, the first opponent Italy World Cup Squad will face in South Africa, will likely prove the most challenging of what appears a relatively tame group stage. The team took three points from South American giants Brazil and Argentina in qualifying, suggesting that they will certainly not role over for the Azzurri.
While Paraguay have not failed to qualify for a world cup since USA 1994, this is not a side with any kind of World Cup pedigree. They have never progressed further than the last 16 in any tournament and failed to qualify from the group stages in 2006.
This, however, is a very different Paraguay side to that of four years ago. They will look to Captain Denis Caniza, who has represented his country in each of the last three World Cups and has 96 caps to his name, to provide a solid foundation in the centre of what is a vastly experienced defence. Despite this strength at the back, it is the attack of this Paraguayan team that could really cause Italy problems in South Africa.
With a strike force boasting Roque Santa Cruz of Manchester City, Nelson Haedo Valdez of Borussia Dortmund and Oscar Cardozo of Benfica, the South Americans have the tools to cause any side problems.
The front three will provide a tough test for even the best defences. They are all athletic, powerful and quick as well as being intelligent footballers with strong goal scoring records. Cardozo is the most in form of the three having stuck an incredible 26 goals in 28 league games this season for Benfica and Gianluigi Buffon, in the Italy goal, will have to be away of his howitzer left boot, both from set pieces and in open play.
Unfortunately for Paraguay, the rest of the side does not measure up to the forwards. The experienced defence boasts and average age of over 30 and only one player under 25, suggesting that they could be found wanting by the pace of Antonio Di Natale. This coupled with the lack of noted midfielders in the squad suggests that the strength of the Italian side should be sufficient to overpower their Paraguayan counterparts.
The challenge for Chiellini, Cannavaro and company will be to somehow put the brakes on the freight train of a Paraguayan attack but, should they succeed, they will find that the South Americans have a remarkably soft centre. A strong performance from the Azzurri seems to be enough to take them beyond Paraguay, but do not be too surprised if the South Americans find the net, or even their way to a victory against the odds.