Italy – World Cup Preview
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As World Cup champions Italy have considerable pressure upon their shoulders to bring home the goods once again. The man who guided them to that success, Marcello Lippi, is back in the driving seat as coach Roberto Donadoni was shipped out after a disappointing show at Euro 2008.
Lippi hasn’t had the best start to his second stint in charge, failing to capitalise on Italy’s entry to the Confederations Cup – a privilege they earned through lifting the World Cup back in 2006. Lippi has also come under fire for his steadfast commitment to fielding the same Italian veterans who were so successful four years ago.
What was once an experienced side looking on top of their game is now a team which carries more players over thirty than any other in the competition. As if to prove the critics right Andrea Pirlo has added injury to insult and looks set to at least miss Italy’s first two games with calf strain.
Pirlo, who was man of the match in the final of the World Cup in 2006 is now 31 and sidelined. The free kick specialist will be missed in Italy’s opening fixtures but after topping their group in qualifying and looking like out and out favourites in Group F (Italy, New Zealand, Paraguay, Slovakia) Pirlo should make it back to the squad before things start to heat up.
Italy boast experience in every corner of the pitch, Gianluigi Buffon is widely regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the world and should Fabio Cannavaro and Gianluca Zambrotta not manage to keep up with the young guns in the tournament Buffon may just be their saving grace.
Having said this the Azzuri do have a striker in form in Alberto Gilardino – if the team is sharp enough they have the capability to do serious damage.