Giovanni Trapatonni: I am happy with all my players but particularly with those who have changed clubs, because they will have found a new motivation for their game. They will feel they have a lot to prove to new clubs and new fans this season. That reflects well on the national team. I am not so happy with players who have said that we are virtually qualified for the finals and can relax a little. That’s the wrong approach entirely.
Can Italy become the first European nation to win a World Cup outside the continent?
I can’t be that specific. Too many factors play their part. But I expect us to reach the semi-finals, and after that anything can happen. My favourites are France, Argentina, Spain and Brazil – assuming they qualify. The Brazilians have struggled because they have not been able to make up for the absence of Ronaldo and because their opponents areno longer in awe of them.
If the World Cup were kicking off tomorrow, who would be in your team?
The nucleus is there already. We have had a few injury problems in the qualifying competition so far. I would certainly have used Christian Vieri regularly at centre- forward had he been fit. He will always have a placein my squad. Francesco Totti has earned himself a place. He has improved dramatically over the past couple of years. It may seem strange but he reminds me of Eusebio: as quick mentally as he is physically.
What about Roberto Baggio. Will you consider taking him to the finals even though he would be 35 by then?
I am seriously considering taking him. You do not ignore so much talent and experience lightly. We will have to see how he plays this season. Whether he goes or not will be one of the last decisions for me. I know he is very popular with fans in the Far East but that will have no bearing on my decision. Form and fitness are all that count.
Do you expect a lot of pressure from your own fans?
It’s inevitable. I don’t think the present team is that far off the level of the 1982 World Cup-winning side. There are a couple of positions in which we still need to find the right players. There are similarities in the build-up. Italy finished in the top four in the World Cup and European Championship immediately before 1982. It’s a bit the same this time. We reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup in France and were runners-up in the European finals.
*This is an extract from an exclusive World Soccer interview with Giovanni Trapattoni. The full interview is available in the October 2001 issue of World Soccer.