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Italy blast critics as quarter-finals loom

June 29, 2006 15:08 IST
Italy hit out on Wednesday at their critics as the eight teams remaining at the World Cup prepared for their quarter-finals later this week.

The quality of play was uneven in the second round and much of the talk at the finals has centred on referees who have doled out a record 25 red cards.

However, the quarter-finals feature the creme de la creme of world soccer, with former champions Italy, Argentina, Germany, France, England and holders Brazil all still here.

Portugal and newcomers Ukraine complete the lineup.

Brazil midfielders Emerson and Kaka were treated for knee pains but the team doctor said it was too soon to assess their chances of making Saturday's match against France, a repeat of the 1998 final won by the French.

England, who expect to welcome back defender Gary Neville from injury, play Portugal in Saturday's other game.

Hosts Germany kick off the quarter-finals on Friday when they play Argentina in one of the most attractive matches of the tournament while Italy face Ukraine later in the day.

The Italians needed a controversial stoppage time penalty to defeat underdogs Australia in their second round match and critics have accused them of being too negative.

The three-times champions are also competing at a time when some of their top clubs face charges in a match-fixing scandal back home.


players dismissed criticism that they had done little to improve the image of Italian football at a tournament in which they have had two men sent off.

"We only have one task. If you win then the rest, being popular, will follow," defender Alessandro Nesta said.

"By now it has become a tradition to attack Italian football and it seems to be in fashion," Nesta said.

"We are indifferent to all this stuff, the words fly away with the wind."

Team mate Marco Materazzi said: "We will leave entertainment to others. You will see it from Italy after (the final on) July 9."

Italy's opponents Ukraine suffered a setback on Wednesday when striker Andriy Voronin was ruled out of the rest of the tournament because of a thigh injury.

Germany captain Michael Ballack and striker Miroslav Klose are nursing minor injuries but are expected to be fit for the match against Argentina in Berlin's Olympiastadion, assistant coach Joachim Loew said.

While a question mark hangs over Emerson and Kaka, Brazil had better news concerning Robinho.

The striker, who started Brazil's last group game but missed their second round win over Ghana because of a twinge in his right thigh, trained under the supervision of a physiotherapist on Wednesday and said he expected to be fit for Saturday.

Andrew Gray
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