Lippi looks set to stick with many of the Berlin heroes who won the World Cup four years ago
You could call it “Berlin syndrome”. Put simply, many Italians feel that, with as many as 12 members of the 2006 squad in contention for South Africa, coach Marcello Lippi has remained far too faithful to the heroes of that Berlin Final four years ago.
Nobody doubts the quality of players such as Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluca Zambrotta, Fabio Grosso, Daniele De Rossi, Andrea Pirlo and Mauro Camoranesi to name but the most obvious. However, many wonder if, four years later and with a lot more miles on the clock, they can find the stimulation and motivation, not to mention the physical stamina, necessary to win another World Cup.
Furthermore, many fans are worried by the fact that four of the probable back five – Gianluigi Buffon, Cannavaro, Giorgio Chiellini and Grosso – are currently playing in a less-than-watertight Juventus defence.
On top of that, at least another five Juve players may well be in contention for squad places – and all this at the end of a bitterly disappointing season for the club.
It is true that Italy often overachieve in World Cups – 1982, 1994 and 2006 are but three obvious examples. It is also true that Italy did the unthinkable and won back-to-back titles in 1934 and 1938, but that very clearly was a different era.
In truth, only a wild Italian optimist – and there are not many of those around – would predict great things for Italy in South Africa.
Some very indifferent performances in a less-than-awesome qualifying group, in which Giovanni Trapattoni’s modest Republic of Ireland made Italy sweat, does not augur well. Nor do those Confederation Cup defeats by Egypt and Brazil in South Africa last summer.
However, this is not to say that Italy will fall on a banana skin.
For a start, the first-round draw has been kind. For a second, this side are too experienced to run the risk of another humiliation of the type meted out by Brazil in that 3-0 drubbing last summer. And for a third, there is every reason to believe Lippi when he says that when Italian teams come together for a month “we usually manage to put together something good”.
For this Italy, “something good” would be the semi-finals. As usual, anything less will be seen as a relative, if not total, failure.