Italy wary of getting caught napping

Preview: Italy v Paraguay, Today, 7.30pm, BBC1
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The Independent Online

Marcello Lippi has been around too long to know that winning the World Cup would protect him from criticism and the evening before beginning the defence of his title, the Italy manager was forced to mount a fierce defence of his regime.



Lippi has been attacked for a build-up to the tournament that has seen the world champions win one of their last five friendlies while creative talents like Antonio Cassano and Fabrizio Miccoli have been omitted. There will probably be only three survivors from the team that beat France lining up against Paraguay, while Andrea Pirlo will miss tonight's match with a calf injury.

"I don't understand the scepticism," Lippi said last night. "I know from experience that what you do before a tournament begins counts for nothing. You can play 10 great games in qualification but I know that once a tournament starts the mentality changes completely.

"A great team grows in confidence throughout a tournament. But when we arrived in Germany I didn't tell everyone they were in for an epic month. I said we would start by playing Ghana; we kept getting stronger and by the time we faced Germany in front of 70,000 of their fans in the semi-final in Dortmund, we had real self-belief. But I never had a feeling at the start of the tournament that we were going to win it.

"Yes we have been criticised but that goes with the territory. That's the way we are with our press. But I came back to manage Italy because I wanted the thrill of being back at a World Cup, being glued in front of the television taking in every match other than your own."



Vote of confidence

Lippi did not reveal how he felt watching England's insipid display against the United States but he had a message of support for manager Fabio Capello. "It is not just because he is Italian; it is because he is good. He is a winner who has always built very pragmatic, concrete teams."

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