World Cup qualifier Group 5
Italy will be anxious to avoid further embarrassment at the hands of Scandinavian opposition on Saturday, as they begin their World Cup qualifying campaign against Norway in Palermo.
After suffering at the hands of both Sweden and Denmark at Euro 2004, Italy failed to renew coach Giovanni Trappatoni’s contract, with new boss Marcelo Lippi charged with ensuring that Italy qualify for Germany 2006 with a minimum of slip-ups.
Lippi did not endure the best possible start, watching his side lose 2-0 to minnows Iceland in a friendly, causing the new coach go voice his concern about the preparations of his side, who face two qualifiers in 4 days before the domestic season has even begun.
“I have the team that will play against Norway more or less in my mind however against Moldova there could be many changes,” Lippi told Italian media on Monday.
“It will be necessary to make some major changes because almost no one is ready now to play two matches in four days,” added the former Juventus coach.
It is this lack of mach fitness that has caused Lippi to leave out Roma’s Antonio Cassano and Simone Perotta, two players who impressed in an otherwise forgettable Euro 2004 campaign.
Lippi has also replaced out of form striker Christian Vieri with Parma’s Alberto Gilardino after calling up the youngster from the under-21 side for this group four clash.
“He is a very intelligent lad who this year has ignored all the talk about him and got on with being a key player at the European under-21 finals and the Olympics. I am sure that he won’t suffer from the step up,” said Lippi.
In midfield, Roma’s Daniele de Rossi is set to partner tough tackling Gennaro Gattuso, meaning Milan’s Andrea Pirlo will miss out’
“Lippi has told me that for this game he needs a greater physical presence in midfield,” Pirlo explained.
Norway, who last qualified for the finals in 1998, will begin their campaign without the services of influential frontman Tore Andre Flo, who recently announced his retirement from international football.
The Norwegians form has been excellent since new coach Age Hariede took over, with six wins and two draws from his eight games in charge, and this has offered renewed vigour to the side.
Despite the anticipated Italian pressure, Hareide has no intention of playing for a draw.
“We’ll be pushed back but we won’t lie back in defence for the sake of it. That way we could quickly become passive and stay there for 90 minutes,” he said.
Hareide has recalled Besiktas Striker John Carew to his squad, but is still without Manchester United’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who is set for a lengthy lay-off, following a recurrence of the knee ligament damage that kept him out for a large part of last season.