Defeat brings out the knives for Donadoni

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The Independent Football

Italian football is often as opaque as a muddy pool and Demetrio Albertini's verdict on his erstwhile team-mate, Roberto Donadoni, fitted that image. "I've spoken with commissioner [Guido] Rossi and we're not even at the point where we need to repeat that we have faith [in Donadoni]," he said yesterday, in the aftermath of Italy's defeat by France in their World Cup final rematch here on Wednesday night. "There's not even a problem. We have to let him work with serenity."

There obviously is a problem with Italy's new coach or Albertini, now the football federation's vice-commissioner, would not have addressed it. The problem is that the world champions have played three matches since Donadoni took over from Marcello Lippi. Two have been lost, including the 3-1 defeat on Wednesday, and one drawn. With one point in two European Championship qualifiers they are five adrift of France and Scotland in Group B.

One newspaper, La Nazione, headed an editorial calling for Donadoni's exit with "How to reduce Lippi's masterwork to pieces in just three weeks". The response of Donadoni, 43 on Saturday and with limited coaching experience, did little to dispel unease in the peninsula. He announced that he would recall Francesco Totti for the two October qualifiers. When told Totti had said he was "taking a break" from the Azzurri until March to allow his injured leg to heal, he said: "That's not what he told me. We left it that we would get in touch game by game to evaluate his condition. Now I'm going to call him."

Donadoni also hopes to have Luca Toni, Alessandro Nesta and other World Cup winners back for the games against Ukraine and Georgia. He added: "I can't work while worrying about the criticism. There are still 30 points available in the group. If you want to make a drama after two games, go ahead."

Italy's defeat added to the deflation felt in a nation already mourning Giacinto Facchetti, the former Internazionale and Azzurri captain, who was buried in Milan a few hours before kick-off in the Stade de France. To the credit of the French support a pre-match moment of remembrance for Facchetti was well observed. The home fans were rewarded by a vintage Les Bleus display.

Raymond Domenech, the coach, said: "The perfect match is the one in which you score on every attack and that your opponents are unable to put you in danger. We came very close to that."

He confirmed that Claude Makelele would be called up whenever needed despite his desire to retire from international football.