Tuesday, 9 September 2008

[Azzurri] Di Natale ready for Georgia clash

Antonio Di Natale will take centre stage when Italy resume their World Cup qualifying campaign against Georgia in Udine.

Training in UdineThe Udinese forward was the hero of the hour on Saturday as his last-gasp goal handed Marcello Lippi's troops a narrow 2-1 win over Cyprus in Larnaca.

Di Natale's strike, his second of the match, spared the blushes of the World champions, and Lippi has confirmed the striker will start in front of his home crowd for Italy's second Group Eight outing on Wednesday night.

"I will make some changes with respect to the team that beat Cyprus, but I can tell the Udine public that Di Natale will play," Lippi said.

"I don't exclude the possibility of playing with a trio in attack."

Di Natale is set to get the nod alongside Mauro Camoranesi and Luca Toni up front, relegating Alberto Gilardino to the bench.

Lippi, who admitted his team where lucky to beat the Cypriots after a low-key display, expects a better showing tomorrow night.

"We need to grow," he added. "In a month's time we will have more weapons, including better physical condition.

"We will have to suffer in certain qualifying games. This has already happened to us and will happen again.

"But the important thing is to grow as a team and that we qualify for the World Cup."

Lippi will have to overcome the loss of Gennaro Gattuso (hand/wrist), Alessandro Gamberini (shoulder) and Fabio Grosso (rib). All three sustained injuries while on international duty at the weekend and will each be sidelined for around a month.

Despite Italy's mounting injury woes and their poor display against Cyprus, Georgia coach Hector Cuper is refusing to underestimate the World champions.

"It's clear that Italy are a strong team and they are favourites," said Cuper, whose players are bidding to bounce back from a 2-1 loss to the Republic of Ireland in their opening qualifier, which was played in Mainz at FIFA's behest due to security concerns in the Georgian capital Tbilisi.

"The Italian Federation has done the right thing by calling back Lippi, who is one of the strongest coaches in the world."

Cuper is familiar with the Italian game having coached Inter and Parma, and would like nothing more than to surprise the Azzurri on their own turf.

"The Azzurri should not underestimate us," he continued. "We lost against Ireland but my team has proved they have an identity.

"We are capable of handing out a surprise, we will not give up, we want to return from Udine with a positive result."

Source: Sporting Life

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