Reuters Soccer Blog
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If you thought Italy were awful at this World Cup it could get even worse in future tournaments.
The slow, unimaginative holders were embarrassed 3-2 by Slovakia on Thursday to crash out in the group stage and retiring captain Fabio Cannavaro reckons the country is just not producing top players anymore.
I asked in a blog before the tournament whether Marcello Lippi’s Italy were the worst ever world champions and now I’m predicting what the team might look like under new coach Cesare Prandelli for Euro 2012, if struggling Italy qualify of course.
A lot of the current team are over 30 and may have had their day so younger players will come in (although young in Italian soccer means 27…). You might not have heard of many of them, and that is exactly the point Cannavaro was making, but Prandelli may want to make radical changes.
Back in the time of tight shorts and second round group stages, the World Cup was very different. Except for Italy that is.
In 1982 the Azzurri drew their three first round group games but still sneaked their way into the second round. A 0-0 draw with Poland, a 1-1 draw with Peru and a 1-1 draw against Cameroon were met with howls of derision but the tradition of Italy being slow starters was born.
It’s been a funny build-up to the World Cup for holders Italy.
The words “South Africa” have barely been mentioned in the last week despite the Azzurri being huddled up in an Alpine ski resort trying to get used to altitude conditions.
Hardly anyone has talked about the World Cup with the focus instead being on a new coach after the tournament and which clubs players will be at next season.
Italy coach Marcello Lippi says we won’t know until next week whether Francesco Totti will come out of international retirement at the World Cup.
It’s unclear if the wait is because Totti has not decided yet, Lippi has not made up his mind or they are just building the tension ready for the announcement of the 30-man preliminary squad on May 11.
Cassano’s supporters have been silenced by his recent form and injury problems, along with the frosty relations with club coach Luigi Del Neri that suggest he may not have subdued the temperament issues that dogged him in the past — the apparent reason Lippi consistently overlooked him.
Jose Mourinho is no stranger to run-ins with rival club managers, but this week the Portuguese raised his aim and had a swipe at Italian national team boss Marcello Lippi.
The Inter Milan coach had taken exception to Lippi tipping Juventus for this year’s Serie A title.
He accused him of lacking respect, arguing a national team coach should be seen to be impartial even if deep down he wants Juve to win (Lippi had two glorious stints at the Turin club split by a dismal, short one at Inter).
While everyone at AS Roma would probably do the Birdie song standing on their heads if Francesco Totti asked, the Italian capital’s golden boy learned his charms have limits this week.
The striker has been hinting for some time he’d like to come out of international retirement, having quit Italy after being part of Lippi’s 2006 World Cup-winning team.