Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Defending champions face problems

Marcello Lippi admits world champions Italy are going through a 'difficult time' following their disappointing showing at the Confederations Cup. The Azzurri upset the international football odds, crashing out of the event in South Africa after a 3-0 defeat to Brazil on Sunday, with the Italian Football Federation president, Giancarlo Abete, critical of the team's performances at the tournament.

Coach Lippi, who led Italy to World Cup success in 2006, was left frustrated by what he saw and admits that a number of players might not be part of the squad next year - should Italy, as expected, qualify for the 2010 World Cup.

Lippi’s men top qualifying Group Eight, which also includes the Republic of Ireland, but their rivals will have noted the Azzurri's poor displays and struggles in South Africa. The coach admitted: “It's the most difficult time since I took over the national team. We have not played good football. He added: “There is still time to work before the World Cup and I never said that this group will be the group that will play in South Africa next year.”

The age of the Italian squad has been a point of discussion in the past, but it certainly looks like being an issue for next year’s finals with a lack of quality youngsters to select from. The likes of Gennaro Gattuso, Mauro Camoranesi, Luca Toni and Andrea Pirlo remain mainstays in the Azzurri’s squad, with the quartet 32, 32, 33 and 31 respectively by the time next year’s tournament kicks-off.

A lack of goals is also a continuing theme, with four goals in their last four competitive matches. The priority is always given to defensive matters and Italy may need to look to two young players to deliver the goods. Villarreal’s Giuseppe Rossi scored twice in Italy’s only Confederations Cup success, a 3-1 win over ten-man USA, while Lippi may also have one eye on the Premier League next season, with Manchester United’s Kiko Macheda set for more chances with the English champions.

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