Starting slowly is nothing new for Italy, and coach Marcello Lippi was far from worried after the Azzurri opened the defense of their World Cup title with a less-than-spectacular 1-1 draw against Paraguay.
When Italy won its third World Cup in 1982, Paolo Rossi and Co. opened with a 0-0 draw against Poland. And in 1994, when the Azzurri went on to reach the final, Arrigo Sacchi's side was beaten 1-0 by Ireland in its first game.
"At a World Cup you've got to build belief, confidence and condition game by game," Lippi said Tuesday, a day after the match in Cape Town. "I've never seen a team start off at 100 percent and maintain that form for seven games."
Italy did begin its title run four years ago with an encouraging 2-0 win over Ghana, but then stumbled in its next match, drawing 1-1 with the United States, before finding the consistency to reel off five more victories.
"Four years ago in our debut we risked much, much more - although we also created several more chances," Lippi said. While Paraguay rarely challenged Italy's stalwart defense during open play - scoring on a set piece - Italy struggled to organize its attack, rarely getting the ball to center forward Alberto Gilardino. "We've got to improve, and I'm sure that we will improve. But so far I haven't seen any perfect squads at this World Cup," Lippi said, adding that he will continue to tinker with his formation. Lippi started without Serie A scoring leader Antonio Di Natale, bringing him on only for the final 22 minutes. Simone Pepe excelled on the right wing at the start, but then swapped places with Vincenzo Iaquinta for the second half, when midfielder Daniele De Rossi slid in to redirect a corner for the equalizer. Lippi wasn't interested in making comparisons with Germany's 4-0 win over Australia on Sunday.