World Cup Betting Preview: Italy vs. Paraguay



Italy
(0-0-0, 0 pts Group F)

Paraguay
(0-0-0, 0 pts Group F)

The defending World Cup champions will take to the pitch for the first time here in South Africa on Monday afternoon in Cape Town, as Italy squares off with Paraguay in World Cup betting action in Group F.

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The Italians will be without M Andrea Pirlo for at least this match and most likely one more, but there isn’t a real concern in their locker room. This match against Paraguay is going to be a tough one, but beyond that, Slovakia and New Zealand really shouldn’t cause all that much concern, and even one slip up will not cost the defending champs an easy ticket to the knockout rounds of this tournament. The defense for the Azzurri is still amongst the strongest in the world, particularly as long as GK Gianluigi Buffon is manning the net. Buffon and his defense, led by D Alessandro Nesta, only allowed two goals in the entire 2006 World Cup en route to the championship, and most of that defense is back to try to put a fort around the Italian net once again. Attacking options could become a concern for Team Italy, especially after a few dismal lead up matches to this World Cup, but just one strike could be enough in what has been a very low scoring tournament to date.

Paraguay is going to be going at it this year with a lot of expectations. This was a team that finished ahead of Argentina in qualifying for the World Cup and will be considered a favorite to advance through a relatively lowly Group F. F Roque Santa Cruz missed the majority of the qualifying matches for this tournament, but he is going to have a tall task going against these Italians. Many think that Santa Cruz may be the best, and potentially the only man that is talented enough to break through against that stingy defense. It is fairly clear that tactically, the South American side is going to be perfectly content to play this match to a 0-0 or 1-1 draw, much as the United States did against England on the second match day of this tournament.

If somehow, Paraguay could sneak three points out of this match, it would be the biggest win in the history of Paraguayan soccer. However, with just a 6-7-9 record in seven World Cups, we knows that that probably isn’t going to happen. Italy is just too strong to not be able to at least find the back of the net once, and we tend to believe that that one strike is going to be enough to give the Azzurri three points to start the World Cup.

Selection: Italy -0.5 +120 at Brobury Sports

Sears Puts Most of Its Financial Services Units Up for Sale; Shareholder Activists Forced Firm to Strip `Stocks’ From `Socks’

The Washington Post September 30, 1992 | Kathleen Day Shareholder activists who have lost repeated proxy battles with Sears, Roebuck and Co. management have apparently won the war – much to their own surprise.

Yesterday’s announcement by Sears that it would sell off large parts of its financial services business represents an unexpected victory for irate stockholders long disappointed with Sears’s performance.

The management of Sears adamantly resisted the pressure to carve up the company to maximize value for investors until yesterday, when the company said it would sell off its Dean Witter Reynolds Inc. brokerage unit, its Discover Card and most of the Coldwell Banker real estate operation.

The restructuring is a repudiation of the plan Sears launched a decade ago to become a major retailer of financial services as well as merchandise in what Wall Street dubbed a “stocks and socks” strategy. The goal was to sell consumers everything from kitchen sinks and work clothes to credit cards and insurance.

Sears is the last to admit that the divestiture plan springs from pressure from shareholder activists such as Robert A.G. Monks, who led the charge for change last year when he unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the Sears board.

Early this year, Sears Chairman Edward A. Brennan told a reporter, “We think the company is stronger together than it would be apart.” The sentiment was repeated in a company statement in May urging shareholders to vote against a proposal to study whether the firm’s insurance, real estate and stock brokerage businesses “are more valuable … if divested and operated as separate businesses.” The company yesterday continued to paint Brennan as a man who not only welcomed change, but initiated it.

“Ed Brennan was the initiator and manager of the process that produced {yesterday’s} decision,” said Sears board member and former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. “And he guided that process in a fair, honest and open manner.” Monks and other shareholder activists have argued that in building such a large, diverse operation, Brennan has allowed the Sears retail business to deteriorate, which in turn has dragged down the performance of Dean Witter and other of the company’s financial divisions. searscouponcodenow.com sears coupon code go to web site sears coupon code

“Sears has not been a particularly open company to shareholders,” said DeWitt Bowman, chief investment officer of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or Calpers, the nation’s largest public pension fund. “So we were not expecting the announcement. The action came as a surprise, but it was welcome.” Monks, now an owner of Lens Inc., a company that he and four others use to invest in companies they believe are not responsive to shareholders, began complaining two years ago about Sears’s performance.

When Monks tried to get a seat on the Sears board, Calpers and other large shareholder groups supported him. The effort led to an acrimonious battle that cost the company millions of dollars.

In a proxy fight this year, five proposals backed by shareholder activists such as Monks were defeated. But the proposals garnered enough votes to shake up the business-as-usual attitude among Sears managers.

Shortly after the meeting, Sears in effect adopted one of them anyway by announcing that it would make shareholder voting confidential.

And with yesterday’s announcement, it’s clear that sometime in the last six months, management decided to go even further than requested in the second of the defeated proposals, which called for a study of the divestment of non-core businesses.

“Frankly, we had no indication they were taking our ideas to heart,” Gray Davis, controller of the state of California and a trustee of the Calpers board, said of the Sears directors. “But I’ve always felt a good idea has a large constituency. They don’t have to like you; they may think you are a nuisance, but shareholders may have a good idea from which they can profit,” Davis said.

Shareholder activists speculated that yesterday’s decision was the result, in part, of their year-long effort to make Brennan give up most of the five hats he wore at the company. In addition to being both chairman and CEO of Sears, he headed the company’s merchandising unit until recently, chaired the board’s nominating committee and was a trustee of the employee profit-sharing plan.

All those positions gave him so much clout that he was able to block efforts to break up the company, shareholder activists said.

Now, even though Brennan retains the important titles of chairman and CEO, his diminished role and the publicity surrounding the proxy fights have given the board of directors the will to initiate substantive reform, they said.

But the fight for change at Sears isn’t over. Monks and others said they would like to see the company adopt another of the defeated proposals, the one that mandates separating the chairman’s job from the chief executive’s. In that respect, they said, the pressure on Brennan is likely to continue.

Yesterday’s announcement will leave Sears where it was in 1980, before its diversification program began, except that it is no longer the country’s biggest retailer. It has been surpassed by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and K mart Corp.

Nevertheless, the company still holds promise for investors with its focus on merchandising, a Sears spokesman said. And on that point, shareholder activists agreed with Sears.

Kathleen Day

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