The defending World Cup champions face Paraguay today in a fascinating meeting between an aging and talented European power (Italy, in case you forgot) and a young and rising South American squad. Paraguay won 10 games in qualifying, more than Argentina and Brazil. SI.comâ€™s Georgina Turner calls it a â€œchess gameâ€œ that will likely result in another low-scoring contest. Closer to home, the biggest question facing the U.S. team (the Americans play Slovenia on Friday) is the health of goaltender Tim Howard, as SI.comâ€™s Peter King examines. The sports schedule (all times Eastern) features World Cup play and a light night in baseball:
-Italy vs. Paraguay (2:30, ESPN)
The Italians will be without standout playmaker Andrea Pirlo until the final game of Group play but remain strong in the back with goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and Giorgio Chiellini, the two-time reigning Defender of the Year in Serie A. Manchester City's Roque Santa Cruz is Paraguay's most dangerous striker. Keep one stat in mind: Paraguayâ€™s World Cup record in opening games is 1-6.
-Mariners at Cardinals (7:10, ESPN)
Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright (8-4, 2.30) has 91 strikeouts, six behind Arizonaâ€™s Dan Haren, who leads the National League in strikeouts. The rare Seattle-St. Louis matchup is part of the continuing Interleague play.
BY THE NUMBERS
Sales percentage increase reported by Korea's Bokwang Family Mart chain stores after South Korea's 2-0 win over Greece.
strikeouts by Nationals pitcher Stephen Strabsurg in his second major league start, a 9-4 Washington win. Strasburg pitched 5 1/3 innings and allowed two hits and five walks.