Italy talismen not ready to go
Fabio Cannavaro and Marcello Lippi conceded that they do not want Italy's game against Slovakia to be their last.
By Mike Barton
Last Updated: 23/06/10 8:58pm
Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro and manager Marcello Lippi have both conceded that they do not want their World Cup Group F game against Slovakia to be their last.
The 2006 champions have not started impressively, drawing their opening two games 1-1 with Paraguay and New Zealand to put what looked to be a simple task of making the last 16 of the tournament in serious doubt.
Both Cannavaro and Lippi are set to end their Azzurri careers after the tournament, with the 36-year-old centre back set to retire from international football and the veteran boss to leave his post as manager.
Both were key components of Italy's victory in the previous finals, but have suffered since with an ageing squad and a lack of world-class talent coming through the ranks in Italian football.
Italy are expected to progress by beating a Slovakia side who have failed to impress during the tournament, but they will know a victory over the holders could see them through should New Zealand not achieve a shock win over group leaders Paraguay.
Lippi, who will be replaced by Cesare Prandelli after the summer, summed up the mood of the camp, claiming that they were desperate to stay in the tournament
"None of us want it to be the last game. On a personal level, we all feel that way," he said.
Pirlo on bench
The 62-year-old also denied speculation that AC Milan playmaker Andrea Pirlo would come into the team from the start, but admitted that there would be some changes in his tactics as Italy look to attack, something they have struggled to do during the tournament.
"He will not start, he will go on the bench and will be available," Lippi said of the speculation surrounding Pirlo.
"We will do what we have done up until now in defence, maybe with a bit more attention to long balls into the box, but up front we have to improve, there is no doubt."
Cannavaro also stated his desire to carry on, dismissing the criticism of his lack of form as not a reflection on the performance of the whole team, despite the former world Player of the Year's status as the leader of the squad, insisting that they were still a side to be feared.
"The worry is not about playing well myself, my worry is qualifying. I'm satisfied with how things are going, but a win is missing, a win changes everything," Cannavaro said.
"It's difficult, in a World Cup you are up against top sides and you are coming from difficult seasons playing 40 or 50 games.
"Everyone says we are old, everyone says we just defend, but nobody wants to play us."