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Del Piero to start in Italy opener

June 14, 2004 01:25 IST

Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni resisted any surprises when he named his team to face Denmark in their Group C opener on Monday.

Trapattoni opted to stick with Simone Perrotta and Cristiano Zanetti in the defensive midfield roles and handed Alessandro Del Piero the left flank slot ahead of AS Roma's Antonio Cassano.

"Del Piero has convinced me that he can play in that role," said Trapattoni. The Juventus forward had put any doubts about his fitness aside during the pre-tournament build-up, he added.

Argentine-born winger Mauro Camoranesi was selected ahead of Stefano Fiore on the right flank while Milan midfielders Gennaro Gattuso and Andrea Pirlo start on the bench.

Trapattoni said Camoranesi offered greater balance to the formation than the more attack-minded Fiore but hinted that Gattuso and Cassano could play some role from the bench.

The Italy coach rejected the suggestion that his decision to announce his team a day before the game, in contrast to most coaches who wait as late as possible, was a sign of great confidence.

"It just shows that I have clear ideas," he told a news conference after training at the Afonso Henriques stadium in the north of Portugal.

"If we both play at our very best then probably we have a little something extra but we can't take anything for granted," said Trapattoni who offered a reminder of Italy's 3-2 home defeat by the Danes in their last meeting, a European qualifier in September 1999.

"Their mentality and approach is well known from previous tournaments and of course they beat us 3-2 the last time we played them," he said.

Italy want to quash any doubts about their credentials following their humiliating exit from the World Cup two years ago at the hands of co-hosts South Korea in the second round and Trapattoni said his current squad was superior in several ways.

"We are in better physical shape generally than they were in Japan (and South Korea) and there have also been some important changes in certain roles," he said.

"I have been really impressed by the conviction of the players. They won't give up and they really want to win."

Italy team:

(4-2-3-1): 1-Gianluigi Buffon; 2-Christian Panucci, 5-Fabio Cannavaro, 13-Alessandro Nesta, 19-Gianluca Zambrotta; 4-Cristiano Zanetti, 20-Simone Perrotta; 16-Mauro Camoranesi, 10-Francesco Totti, 7-Alessandro Del Piero; 9-Christian Vieri.

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