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Rediff.com  » Sports » Italy cannot afford another World Cup slip-up

Italy cannot afford another World Cup slip-up

October 13, 2004 10:47 IST

Smarting from their defeat to Slovenia, Italy face Belarus on Wednesday in Parma knowing they can ill-afford to let their World Cup qualifying campaign get further off track.

On paper Belarus, down in 73rd place in the FIFA rankings, should not cause Marcello Lippi's side too many headaches but the Italians are well aware of their previous difficulties against the former Soviet nation.

During qualification for Euro 2000, the Italians drew both their games against the Belarussians, results that at one stage threatened their chances of making the finals.

While Italy were unable to convert their chances in Slovenia, Anatoly Baidachny's side are in confident mood after enjoying a 4-0 win over Moldova on Saturday.

Italy coach Marcello Lippi has been criticised for over-experimenting since taking over from Giovanni Trapattoni after the Azzurri's poor showing at Euro 2004 with only three players having played for 90 minutes in the last four games.

After a friendly defeat to Iceland, Italy beat Norway and Moldova in their opening Group Five matches in September but the 1-0 defeat to the Slovenians has raised questions about the former Juve coach's choices.

Not only has Lippi made radical changes in personnel for each game, 28 players used in four matches, he has constantly swapped the team's tactical formation.

But on Wednesday he is expected to avoid an over-reaction to the Slovenia defeat and make few alterations.

The suspension of right-back Daniele Bonera forces at least one change with Lazio's Massimo Oddo set to replace the Parma defender and Lippi might also consider pushing Gianluca Zambrotta forward into midfield to add some extra steel on the left flank.

Striker Alberto Gilardino has so far failed to live up to expectations for Italy but at his home Tardini stadium he will probably keep his place with Palermo's Luca Toni ready to enter from the bench.

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has warned the East Europeans of a backlash after Saturday's poor performance and Baidachny says he expects a determined reaction from the setback.

"We have to keep in mind Saturday's game," said the Belarus coach, who is still missing his top player Alexander Gleb.

The VfB Stuttgart playmaker, voted Belarus Player of the Year in 2003 for a second year in a row, is suspended for the third and final game after being sent off in this year's European under-21 championship finals.

Inserting speedy striker Vitaly Bulyga for a more pedestrian Sampdoria forward Vitaly Kutuzov could be the only change from Saturday's win over Moldova as Baidachny wants to rely on quick counter-attacks against Italy.

Probable teams:

Italy: Gianluigi Buffon; Massimo Oddo, Alessandro Nesta, Fabio Cannavaro, Giuseppe Pancaro; Mauro Esposito, Gennaro Gattuso, Daniele De Rossi, Gianluca Zambrotta; Francesco Totti, Alberto Gilardino.

Belarus: Vasily Khomutovsky; Alexander Kulchiy, Sergei Yaskovich, Sergei Omelyanchyuk, Sergei Shtanyuk, Sergei Gurenko, Andrei Lavrik, Valentin Belkevich, Maxim Romashchenko, Vladimir Korytko, Vitaly Bulyga.

Referee: Carlos Devila Megia (Spain)
Simon Evans
Source:
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