IRENE - Italy have reverted to type with cautious coach Marcello Lippi content with an uninspiring 1-1 draw against Paraguay and stating that organised South Korea have impressed him most so far.
Despite being world champions and showing an unusual urgency late on to try to win Monday's Group F opener in Cape Town, Lippi is sticking to the Italian way where all that matters is sneaking into the knockout stages and not peaking too early.
"I've not seen a great team come to the World Cup and play at 100 percent straight away," Lippi told a news conference on Tuesday back at their base near Pretoria.
"I'm satisfied. There was an improvement in terms of conviction but we've got to get even better we know that."
Having a well-drilled unit is more important than being especially flowing, with South Korea's 2-0 win over Greece enthusing Lippi as much as Germany's 4-0 thrashing of Australia.
"For organisation, I liked South Korea best even if they did not play against a top opponent," he said. "Germany showed brilliance but Australia... are not as strong as the United States for example."
An example of Lippi's hard-working but unspectacular philosophy is midfielder Claudio Marchisio, who played behind the strikers on Monday but offered little attacking threat.
"I know perfectly well that Marchisio doesn't have the qualities of a playmaker, he's not (Netherlands midfielder Wesley) Sneijder. But he is good at pressing."
Lippi is a big believer in not wasting all your luck in the early stages of a World Cup and instead making small steps of progress before shining in the latter stages like in 2006.
He used the example of their 1982 triumph where striker Paolo Rossi burst into form in the knockout rounds after Italy drew their three group games.
"In 1982 Paolo Rossi never touched the ball in the first three matches. I'll tell you who our Paolo Rossi is at the end of the World Cup. All 23 could become the key," he snarled.
"Before saying it's a mediocre World Cup let's wait for the quarter-finals. We are only at the first set of matches."
Lippi had no update on goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who went off with a sciatic nerve problem at halftime but hopes to be fit for Sunday's second group game against New Zealand.
Italy switched from a 4-2-3-1 formation to a 4-4-2 late on against Paraguay and Lippi said he would continue to tinker with systems during a match if his strikers were not getting service.
Former Italy striker Alessandro Altobelli, who won the 1982 World Cup with Rossi, is not worried by the misfiring strikers.
"The forwards are not great and they must work on their interplay but as a group they are decent," he told Reuters.