Ambitious Italy chase more glory

MILAN - Marcello Lippi hasn't said much about it but he certainly won't be pulling any punches when he takes his world champion squad to the Confederations Cup that Italy play for the first time next June.

MILAN - Marcello Lippi hasn't said much about it but he certainly won't be pulling any punches when he takes his world champion squad to the Confederations Cup that Italy play for the first time next June.

The event organised by football's ruling body Fifa has gradually evolved into a prestigious warmup tournament taking place one year before the World Cup in the country that will host it.

From June 14 to 28 next year, South Africa will thus test its stadiums and infrastructure in a tournament reserved for eight teams from six continents.

Italy participate as World Cup holders and represent the Old Continent along with Euro 2008 winners Spain. The other competing countries are holders Brazil, Iraq, Egypt, the United States, New Zealand, all winners of their continental trophies, plus South Africa as World Cup hosts.

Lippi's Azzurri have done well in their qualification group for the 2010 World Cup and are in the lead after four of the 10 qualifiers.

"I dream of a final against Brazil [at the World Cup]," he said in a recent interview.

But his dream could have a prologue already next year as powerhouse Brazil will be set on winning the Confed Cup for a third time.

"My goal is to build again a team psychologically ready to do something big, as the one that won the World Cup."

The 60-year-old Lippi said he was pleased to see "the availability of the older players to give advice to the young ones, who listened to them as if they were oracles. It was very nice to see it and I'm very confident." Lippi left the world champions after the final won on penalties in Berlin against France and returned on the Azzurri's bench after two years spent savouring the glory of the 2006 triumph in Germany.

His return coincided with the firing of the young Roberto Donadoni, who paid dearly for a shootout elimination against Spain in the quarterfinals of Euro 2008.

Many world champions are still in his squad, with goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and defenders Fabio Cannavaro and Gianluca Zambrotta virtually certain of a place at the Confed Cup despite their age.

Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso and the younger Daniele De Rossi are the backbone of the midfield, while there seems to be more competition up front.

Luca Toni seems to have lost part of his grit when he dons the Azzurri jersey, but Lippi can only be happy to watch the large group of classy strikers vying for a spot in Italy's attack.

Alberto Gilardino is well poised to be a fixture, but will face competition from Marco Borriello, Antonio Di Natale, Simone Pepe, Fabio Quagliarella, Antonio Cassano, the young Giuseppe Rossi and veteran Alessandro Del Piero.

Then there is Juventus striker Amauri, the powerful and effective Brazilian who is waiting to be naturalised. - Sapa-DPA

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