Tuesday, 1 July 2008

United front to fire Lippi's new Italy

Marcello Lippi has warned Italy fans not to expect an immediate turnaround in fortunes during his first news conference back at the helm of the national team.

Lippi, who stood down as Azzurri coach two years ago following a victorious World Cup campaign, was re-appointed last week after the Italian Football Federation decided to part company with Roberto Donadoni.

The 60-year-old Lippi admitted that had it not been for the Calciopoli scandal in the lead up to the World Cup then he would never have left, but is delighted to be back in a role he feels so passionately about.

"I'm obviously really happy to restart where I left off," he said at his official unveiling in Rome this afternoon. "It means that things have not gone to plan for the national team, but I am delighted to be back.

"Many things have been said that were not true since I have been away. I would never have left the team - you know the reasons why I left - before we won the World Cup.

"But I have decided to come back. For a year I had no desire to be back on the bench, but then I got a few offers from clubs and other national teams.

"These two years have not been lost, even though there has not been a European Championship win.

"Once the Euros got underway I had a strong will to be back where I left off should the possibility arrive, and so it has happened. In a certain way I feel that I am in debt to the Federation."

The former Juventus coach said it would be unrealistic to expect an instant return to the style of play that brought glory in 2006, and has warned that just reaching the 2010 World Cup in South Africa will be a tough task.

"The World Cup finals won't be easy," said Lippi. "And neither will the qualifiers. Only after we have emerged from the qualifiers can we talk about retaining the World Cup."

The World champions have been drawn in qualifying Group Eight, alongside Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Montenegro and the Republic of Ireland - who recently appointed former Azzurri coach Giovanni Trapattoni to their hotseat.

"The greatest error we can make is to think that qualification for the World Cup is a formality," Lippi continued.

"Before everything we have a friendly on August 20 against Austria and then the qualifiers. Once we pass them we can concentrate on the World Cup, on our opponents.

"If we want to win the World Cup we will have to beat opponents of great quality.

"Leave me for a bit to look at the situation - to talk to the coaches and understand how to act. There's still time. Of course the August friendly isn't fundamental. Even four years ago we started with a defeat and then you know how it turned out."

Donadoni left his position just four days after Italy crashed out of Euro 2008 at the quarter-final stage following a penalty shoot-out defeat to Spain. Criticism has been rife as Azzurri fans try to come to terms with the team's slump, but Lippi insists he will not be making wholesale changes to the squad.

"I have returned to win," he said. "To experience again the feelings of the past. That of triumph, but also of unity and solidarity with the entire group.

"I will recreate the squad that I left, integrating it with new players. To find solidarity today in the national team is very hard. We succeeded before and that will be the task for the future.

"We need a team with a great mentality which has the ability to defend and attack with the same quality.

"It is important to understand whether in the youth teams there are players capable of bettering the senior side. There are so many new names - some from the Olympics team, others from the European Championships, and still others.

"We have to pad out the solid group that we all know we have."

Despite his desire to retain the core of the squad that tasted World Cup glory in Germany, Lippi admitted that he will not be trying to convince Francesco Totti and Alessandro Nesta to come out of international retirement.

"I'm convinced that we must respect the decisions of the players involved, in this case two players who gave a lot to the national team," he said. "I have no intention to try and get them to return. It's not right. They took their decision and we must respect that."

Lippi also slammed reports that suggested he had demanded a large fee to return to the Azzurri bench, insisting his priority is to add a second World Cup win to his CV.

"I haven't signed a contract yet," he said. "I haven't signed anything yet. I have never talked about money and stuff.

"I only said that it would give me pleasure to work again with the same people I worked with two years ago.

"I'm the same person as before. Today's there's a lot of enthusiasm to recreate the climate of two years ago. As for the rest, we'll see."

Source: Sporting Life

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