Thursday's WCup lookahead capsules

Capsules for Thursday's matches at the World Cup (FIFA rankings in parentheses):


Italy (5) vs. Slovakia (34), 10 a.m.
Group F

Four-time champion Italy comes off two disappointing draws, but a victory will put it into the next round. Slovakia tied New Zealand and lost to Paraguay.

Italy: Playmaking midfielder Andrea Pirlo, a key to the 2006 title, should be back from a calf injury that sidelined him in the first two matches.

Slovakia: Slovakia coach Vladimir Weiss lashed out at his nation's media after a 2-0 loss to Paraguay.

Notable Fact: The last defending champion to go out in the first round was France in 2002. Italy would suffer that ignominious fate if it loses to the Slovaks.


Paraguay (31) vs. New Zealand (78), 10 a.m.
Group F

A victory boosts the South Americans into the next round. New Zealand also moves into the round of 16 with a win.

Paraguay: Paraguay is on the brink of a fourth appearance in the final 16 of a World Cup, but has yet to go beyond that stage.

New Zealand: The Kiwis have far surpassed predictions. In their only previous appearance, in 1982, the All Whites lost their three group matches and were outscored 12-2.

Notable Fact: Thus far, South American teams have 10 victories and two draws, with Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil into the second round. Paraguay is in position to join them.


Denmark (36) vs. Japan (45), 2:30 p.m.
Group E

The match will determine who joins the Dutch in the next round. Japan needs at least a draw, while Denmark must win.

Denmark: Striker Nicklas Bendtner hasn't fully recovered from a lingering groin injury, but he scored a goal against Cameroon.

Japan: Japan beat Cameroon 1-0, the team's first World Cup victory on foreign soil. Japan also defended well in its 1-0 loss to the Netherlands.

Notable Fact: The Danes won their group in 2002, their last World Cup, then lost to England in the second round.


Cameroon (19) vs. Netherlands (4), 2:30 p.m.
Group E
Cape Town

The Dutch were the first team to advance even though neither of their victories have featured endearing soccer. Cameroon was the first team eliminated.

Cameroon: Star striker Samuel Eto'o won the Champions League and Italian league title and cup with Inter Milan, but this will be his final game in the 2010 World Cup.

Netherlands: Left wing Arjen Robben appears fully recovered from the left hamstring injury he sustained in a warm-up match against Hungary on June 5 and could play.

Notable Fact: The Netherlands won all eight qualifying games, outscoring opponents 17-2, and has two wins here without yielding a goal.