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Italy to celebrate World Cup title against Lithuania

Italy to celebrate World Cup title against Lithuania

The celebrations could overshadow the soccer Saturday when Italy plays its first competitive match as world champion.The Azzurri host Lithuania to open qualifying for the 2008 European Championship. The World Cup trophy will be paraded around the field and a fourth star will be unveiled on Italy's jerseys to represent its fourth world title.
Captain Fabio Cannavaro is looking forward to returning to his hometown and playing at Naples' San Paolo stadium.
Cannavaro was a ball boy when Diego Maradona played at San Paolo.
"I'm still very attached to Naples. It's a special city," Cannavaro said Thursday. "That stadium is different from any other. I grew up in that stadium."
Italy will have to be wary, however, that the occasion does not affect its play.
"Nobody is going to let us win because we're the world champions. We have to go out and show it," Cannavaro said.
The game also marks the official debut of new Italy coach Roberto Donadoni, who was called in when Marcello Lippi resigned after the World Cup.
Donadoni plans to unveil a new attack centered on Filippo Inzaghi, who played in only one of Italy's seven World Cup matches. Inzaghi will likely have Antonio Cassano and Marco Marchionni flanking him in a 4-3-3 formation.
Cassano was recalled to Italy's squad for the first time since June 2005, having regained his form at Real Madrid.
The rest of the lineup should remain mostly unchanged from the World Cup, although Andrea Barzagli will step in at central defense with Alessandro Nesta and Marco Materazzi unavailable.
Nesta is still recovering from an injury that kept him out of Italy's final four games at the World Cup, while Materazzi begins a two-game ban for provoking France's Zinedine Zidane in the World Cup final.
Italy visits France for a Euro 2008 qualifier next week.
"The France game is more delicate on paper, but we have to think about Lithuania now," Donadoni said.
The last time Italy faced Lithuania, in 2001, it drew 0-0 in a World Cup qualifier.
"The game in Naples won't be easy. I know Lithuania well. I played in that draw," Inzaghi said.
Lithuania can rely on 1.90-meter (6-foot-4) forward Tomas Danilevicius, who played under Donadoni at Livorno.
Italy's biggest worry is that it will struggle physically, with most of its players behind in their preparation. The Italian league doesn't start until Sept. 9-10.
Cannavaro said the fans would give the Azzurri the energy they need, though.
"I expect a lot of enthusiasm," he said.


Updated : 2021-10-19 11:57 GMT+08:00