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Italy must change to retain World Cup
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By Xiang Bin

Buffon, Cannavaro, Zambrotta, Grosso, Pirlo, De Rossi, Gattuso, Iaquinta, Toni; with almost the same squad, Italy won their fourth world cup in Germany in 2006. But three years on, they have failed to progress to the knock-out stages of the 2009 Confederations Cup after losing to Egypt and Brazil. Can the Azzurri defend their championship in next year's World Cup with these players? Like it or not, the answer has to be an emphatic 'No'.

The Azzurri need to make changes in all areas – in the back line, the midfield and up front.

Early elimination from 2009 Confederations Cup has put Italy coach Marcello Lippi under mounting pressure. 


Buffon has suffered a decline in form in recent years but, arguably, 'Gigi' is still the best and the most trustworthy candidate to fill the position, and this should secure him an automatic place in Italy's starting XI in next year's World Cup.

Back line

Chiellini is currently the number one center back in Italy. Cannavaro is not as solid and consistent as he was in 2006, but taking into account his experience and leadership qualities, he will still captain the 'Blues' in South Africa, and the central duo of Chiellini and Cannavaro should be good enough to take on most of the top opposition.

The wingback position is where the defending champions need an injection of young blood. Zambrotta and Grosso are getting older, and they will never be as effective on the flank as they were in 2006.

Marco Motta and Davide Santon are the perfect successors to the wingback positions. Still young, both have promising futures. Santon is regarded as the next Facheti by many Inter fans.


Despite early elimination and lackluster performances, Lippi's side has a couple of things to cheer about. One is Giuseppe Rossi; the other is the excellent midfield partnership formed by Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi, which should be the cornerstone of the Azzurri over the next two to three years.

But in addition to Pirlo and De Rossi, Lippi needs a winger and a stopper in midfield. He tested several players in the three group matches but the results were disappointing. Camoranesi is inconsistent and, on present form, can only be used occasionally; Montolivo has struggled to repeat his club level performances for the national side; Gattuso, while dogged as usual, has lost his ability to cover the ground in midfield.

In this situation, Lazio winger Pasquale Foggia and Milan's Massimo Ambrossini are ideal candidates to provide more dynamic midfield options.


Giuseppe Rossi of Villarreal was the brightest spot for Italy in the Confederations Cup. 

As we already said, Giuseppe Rossi was the brightest spot for the hapless Italy squad in this tournament. The most dangerous attacker in the Azzurri, the Villarreal forward has everything the reigning world champions currently lack; imagination, pace, the ability to beat a man and score. He would be the perfect man to play in the hole in a 4-4-1-1 formation.

But what should concern Lippi most is the lack of a powerful striker. Toni is finished, Iaquinta is far from world-class, and Gilardino is seen as unable to deliver on big occasions. That's why Lippi is hoping Amauri will be allowed to play for Italy.

With the current squad, despite their age, Italy are still a good team, but far from good enough to take on opposition like Brazil and Spain. Changes are necessary if they are to repeat their World Cup success in South Africa next year.

(China.org.cn June 23, 2009)

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