Defending champions Italy prepare for Paraguay test

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles
marcello lippi

Lippi has dismissed claims that his Italy side lack maturity (Photo: Elena Torre)

Italy’s preparations for their opening Group F game against Paraguay were disrupted by poor weather in Cape Town last night.

Rain and cold temperatures forced coach Marcello Lippi to abandon a final training session instead opting for gym work. The onlooking Italian media were nonetheless afforded an insight into the prospective starting eleven for tonight’s fixture after a brief practice match.

The absence of Andrea Pirlo and the delayed return of Mauro Camoranesi has forced Lippi to experiment with his midfield in recent warm-up games.

Roma’s Daniele Di Rossi is expected to occupy the midfield anchor role supported by Claudio Marchiso while Riccardo Montolivo, Simone Pepe and Vincenzo Iaquinta will provide the attacking thrust from midfield in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Gilardinho will lead from the front with Sampdoria’s Giampaolo Pazzini and Napoli’s Fabio Quagliarella available from the bench should the Italian’s struggle to break down the Paraguay defence.

Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluca Zambrotta are the veterans amongst the Azzurri rearguard and will be expected to guide the otherwise youthful Italian defence through the World Cup.

The defending champions have been subjected to much criticism from their national media. Questions have been raised as to whether Lippi will be able to blend the experience of the stalwarts from 2006 with the newly blooded players in the squad.

Lippi however, says his side’s patchy pre-tournament form will have little bearing on his side’s World Cup campaign.

“One of the things I learned from the last World Cup is that everything that comes before counts for nothing,” said Lippi.

“The state of mind, the attitude of opponents, the tension, it’s all different, everything changes.”

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