One of the most interesting aspects of an Italy match is seeing how Marco Lippi chooses to deploy his team.
Leading in to the tournament, Lippi seemed to have settled on a 4-2-1-3, but an injury to the "1" - Andrea Pirlo - brings into question what Lippi will do. He could stick Ricardo Montolivo in that role. Maybe he moves Daniele de Rossi higher on the pitch. He could always completely change formation, which should happen a couple of times during this tournament.
Lippi does not believe in set formations. He will identify what his team can do, assess what the other team can do - will try to do - and deploy his team accordingly. If he does settle on one formation, it means that his team lacks the options to be flexible. Still, trying to describe what he does in terms of a static numbering scheme is a bit difficult. It would be better to break out graph paper and a digital camera (which I wish I had for the purposes of this preview).
Lippi is the main reason why Italy - with an aging team which, per talent, is falling behind the other world powers - continues to be dangerous in any match, against any team. The coach may also be the reason why Italy disappointed at Euro 2008, where they were run by Roberto Donadoni.
For this match, expect Antonio Di Natale, Alberto Gilardino and Vincezo Iaquinta in an attacking three, with de Rossi, Montolivo and Angelo Palombo in the middle. It's at the back, though, that there should be real questions.
Fabio Cannavaro is one of the classic players of this generation. Having won the Silver Ball at Germany 2006, he was the driving force being an Italy run that was built from the back forward. But at 37-years-old, Cannavaro is fading. Many feel has has not been the same since he left Juventus for Real Madrid that summer. Over the last four years he game has fallen to the point that he has left Juventus and Serie A, signing this summer for a team in Qatar.
He can be attacked, as can Gianluca Zambrotta, who could start to Cannavaro's right. Zambrotta's form and health have been inconsistent over the two years. If he and is positioned next to Cannavaro, that gives Paraguay one half of the back line to attack.
Paraguay is a team particularly situated to attack that weakness. Roque Santa Cruz is a skilled forward who can hold up the ball while Lucas Barrios provides their striking tandem the flair. Barrios is also adept at attacking through the left, and coming off a strong season in Germany (and a strong run in the lead-up to the tournament), Barrios could be the most dangerous man on the pitch.
Augmented by Nelson Haedo Valdez off the bench, Paraguay need not over-commit to attack to be dangerous. Gerardo Martino can play conservatively, as he is apt to go against the Brazils, Argentinas - Italys - of the world.
The combination of Martino's approach, Italy's style, the match's overall skill level, and Lippi should make for a highly tactical, exciting, of relatively low scoring affair.