Group F – Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia
Group F on paper at least looks to be the weakest group in the draw and Italy will be expected to win the group easily. However things don’t always work out as planned and Paraguay who played well in qualifying look good enough to join them in the second round and could push them close for 1st place.
Italy are notoriously slow starters in major tournaments but as current holders cannot be written off and will definitelyqualify from this group. You would have to go all the way back to 1974 to find the last time they failed to qualify for the second stages and they have a squad of players who are almost entirley home based so they will know each others playing styles well. Currently ranked 5 in the World by Fifa they will expect to make the quarter finals at least.
Paraguy had a great qualifying campaign finishing within a point of Brazil and only missed out on second place to Chile on goal difference. Their qualifying campaign included great home wins over Brazil and Argentina and a 3-0 win away to Chile. On that form they could surprise a few teams and they should be good enough to qualify and if they can sneak the group then they could make the quarter finals.
Slovakia won a weak qualifying group and although they will be hard to beat it will be a major surprise if they get into the top two places. Infact Slovakia v New Zealand will probably decide who finishes bottom of the group.
New Zealand qualified after beating Bahrain 1-0 on aggregate and got to that stage by winning a group which included Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu. No disrespect to those opponents but the average English Championship side could probably do as well and if New Zealand get a point they in this group they will have done well.
The overall predicted finishing positions are:-
1 Italy (just)
4 New Zealsnd