Soccer: Italy Start Title Defence with a Draw Dutch, Japan Win

Johannesburg, June 15 (DPA) Italy started their defence of the World Cup title with a 1-1 draw against Paraguay in rain-drenched Cape Town Monday while the Netherlands prevailed 2-0 over Denmark and Japan upset Cameroon 1-0.

Paraguay defender Antolin Alcaraz opened the scoring with a header in the 39th minute, but Daniele De Rossi equalized in the 63rd by taking full advantage of Paraguay keeper Justo Villar's failed clearance of a corner to knot the game at the Green Point Stadium.

"It's a bit disappointing that we only got one point. We feel we could have gotten the full three points," Italy coach Marcello Lippi said after the match.

There was more drama in the Italian camp when Gianluigi Buffon was unable to start the second half with a sciatica nerve problem, with Cagliari's Federico Marchetti entering for his sixth cap.

Coach Lippi later confirmed that Buffon had a back problem, but said he hoped to recover him for Italy's second game against New Zealand Sunday.

There was also drama off the pitch during a jam-packed day in South Africa.

The privatly-contracted stewards tasked with security at the Cape Town game were sent home ahead of the match due to a dispute over pay conditions, with the South African police taking control of security.

The incident came a day after riot police had to use rubber bullets, tear gas and smoke grenades in Durban to break up a protest by hundreds of angry security stewards after the end of the Germany-Australia match.

Meanwhile, FIFA supremo Sepp Blatter moved to quash speculation that South Africa's irritatingly noisy vuvulezas might have to be forbidden from the stadiums.

"I don't see banning the music traditions of fans in their own country. Would you want to see a ban on the fan traditions in your country?" he said.

Along with the allegedly unpredictable trajectories of the Jabulani ball, the horns have been one of the hottest subject of debate at the 2010 World Cup, with many teams and fans complaining about the volume of the annoying noise-makers.

In earlier action Monday, star-studded Netherlands were hardly impressive but still managed to secure a comfortable 2-0 victory over Denmark in Group E's opening match.

The win in Johannesburg's Soccer City was facilitated by the help of a comedy own goal in the 46th minute, when Simon Poulsen headed a clearance against his own defensive team-mate Daniel Agger and past keeper Thomas Sorensen.

FIFA had originally credited the goal to Poulsen but later changed it to Agger.

The second goal was entirely of the Dutch's making, however, with Dirk Kuyt tapping in the ball after it was sent against the post by Eljero Elia five minutes from time.

Bayern Munich defender Mark van Bommel later said he was happy enough with the fact that his side had not played as spectacularly as some might have expected.

"It is not bad that we won the game without playing fantastically. That will ensure that we keep our feet on the ground, and that is a good thing. The most important thing were the three points," said van Bommel.

Danish boss Morten Olsen, for his part, was judged to have erred on the side of caution by naming Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner as a lone striker.

The game saw captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst earn his 100th cap with the national side.

There were more surprises in Group E's other match, with Japan producing one of the biggest upsets of the World Cup in knocking off fancied Cameroon 1-0 at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein.

Keisuke Honda, who turned 24 Sunday, scored the only goal in a match that saw Japanese prevail over African goodwill.

The win was Japan's first in a World Cup played away from home.

Cameroon had hoped to emulate Ghana - the only African team to have won in this World Cup campaign so far - but failed to impress, with superstar Samuel Eto'o often appearing stranded on the right and out of much of the action.

Tuesday's World Cup action sees New Zealand take on Slovakia in Group E - merely an appetizer ahead of mouth-watering clashes between Ivory Coast and Portugal and between Brazil and North Korea.



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Title: Soccer: Italy Start Title Defence with a Draw Dutch, Japan Win

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