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Italy runs into more defensive trouble with Panucci injury

Italy runs into more defensive trouble with Panucci injury

Italy's defensive problems grew Friday when right back Christian Panucci limped off the training field with a knee injury.
As Panucci exited with a light tendon problem in his right knee, he went past captain Fabio Cannavaro sitting on a bench next to his crutches.
Cannavaro was ruled out of the European Championship after injuring his left ankle in Italy's opening training session Monday, and was operated on Wednesday.
At this point, coach Roberto Donadoni appears set to start Marco Materazzi and Andrea Barzagli in central defense in the Azzurri's opener against the Netherlands on Monday. If Panucci is also unavailable, Gianluca Zambrotta will likely shift over to right back and Fabio Grosso will start on the left flank.
"Italy loses a lot without Cannavaro, but we've got the same desire we had at the World Cup," midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo said Friday before Panucci's injury. "Plus, there's extra motivation because Italy hasn't won a European Championship in 40 years. It's time to bring this trophy home. I came here to win."
Pirlo earned man of the match honors in three of the seven games during Italy's World Cup run two years ago. He was also a member of Italy's team that won the Under-21 European Championship in nearby Bratislava, Slovakia, in 2000 _ the same year France became the only team to follow a World Cup title with the continental triumph.
"Apart from the coach, Italy is still the same and we're stronger mentally _ we know what we're capable of," Pirlo said.
However, the reshaped defense could have its hands full against Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy.
"It's going to be a very tough game against a very organized team," Materazzi said of the Netherlands. "We're going to have to run a lot.
"Van Nistelrooy is a great striker that is tough to defend," Materazzi said, adding that he has never faced the Real Madrid forward: "No, I've never had that misfortune."
Materazzi and Grosso both made several big plays at the World Cup, and the injuries to Cannavaro and Panucci have given them an opening to contribute again.
Grosso became known for the screams he let out at the World Cup after scoring a decisive goal in extra time of the semifinal with Germany and then again after converting the decisive kick in the penalty shootout against France in the final.
"I just hope whoever is screaming at the end is Italian, because that will mean we've won the Euros too," Grosso said. "That's the most important thing. It doesn't matter whether it's me or someone else."
Grosso transferred from Inter Milan to Lyon a year ago, and won the French league and cup titles this season.
"It's always a bit tough at first when you leave Italy, but I had a fantastic season on and off the pitch," Grosso said. "I'm very happy with the choice I made and I hope to remain with Lyon for a long time."
Grosso scored only one goal with Lyon and was often criticized in the French press.
"I've been keeping the goals on hold until this European Championship," he said with a smile. "I've got a lot of confidence and I know what I'm capable of, but I also know my limits. That's why I'm always trying to improve."
Pirlo's place in the lineup has never been in doubt. He may be the most valuable player on Italy's team.
Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Chelsea are each willing to pay as much as euro50 million (US$78 million) for Pirlo's services, according to reports that surfaced in Italy on Friday.
But Pirlo isn't budging. He's content to stay with AC Milan, the club he's won two Champions League titles with.
"Personally, I haven't spoken with anyone. But my agent has received offers from Spain and England, and that's very flattering. But at this level, 1 million more or less doesn't make a difference, the important thing is reaching the goals you set for yourself," Pirlo said. "I have everything I need at Milan."


Updated : 2021-07-24 06:59 GMT+08:00