Tuesday, 18 November 2008

[Azzurri] Rossi set to start

Italy coach Marcello Lippi will give Giuseppe Rossi his first senior start in Wednesday's international friendly against Greece in Athens.

Giuseppe RossiRossi, who made his debut with the World champions as a second-half substitute against Bulgaria last month, will start alongside Juventus' Mauro Camoranesi and either Bayern Munich's Luca Toni or Fiorentina's Alberto Gilardino in the Azzurri attack.

The 21-year-old has earned much praise after an impressive start to the campaign in Spain with Villarreal, where he has scored six goals in the last seven games.

"Giuseppe is 21 but has a strange experience for a youngster like him," said Lippi. "He has already played in three big leagues (Serie A, English Premier League and Spanish Primera Liga), he is matured and ready."

Rossi is eager to continue his goalscoring form and help the Azzurri clinch a victory.

"I will try to make the most of my chances," he said. "If I have arrived here it is thanks to the work I've done and to the support of my family."

Toni is desperate to end his goalscoring drought with the national team having failed to find the back of the net since February, when he scored in a friendly against Portugal.

"I really miss scoring for Italy," said Toni, who failed to score in Euro 2008 and has seen Gilardino rival him for a starting spot. "I really want to score my 16th goal with the national team.

"I know I can do it, I feel good and fit."

A positive result in Athens, in their final international game of 2008, would allow Lippi to break Italy's double World Cup-winning coach Vitorio Pozzo's record of 30 consecutive games without defeat and equal the world record of 31 international games unbeaten set by former Spain coach Javier Clemente and ex-Argentina tactician Alfio Basile.

But Lippi's main focus is for his team to continue to reconstruct and be ready to defend their World Cup title in two years time in South Africa.

The Azzurri have shown very little signs of weakness in their World Cup qualifying campaign - leading Group Eight having won three and drawn once in four encounters.

"The important thing is to grow as a team," said Lippi. "The game against Greece is a perfect test to evaluate the group.

"I want to see my team take another step in growing as a team."

Lippi knows his team will face a test against the 2004 European champions.

"Greece are a top team," said Lippi. "We will have to be focused and show determination from the start."

Lippi was able to recall Fabio Grosso, Nicola Legrottaglie, Vincenzo Iaquinta and Camoranesi after the quartet missed the previous squad due to injuries.

Galatasaray goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis is expected to replace injured Gianluigi Buffon in goal.

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