Monday, 30 March 2009

Lippi happy to follow Trap's lead

Italy coach Marcello Lippi will face the man who has been "a point of reference for his generation" as the Azzurri look to beat Giovanni Trapattoni's Republic of Ireland in Bari on Wednesday to take a five-point lead in FIFA World Cup qualifying Group 8.

Marcello Lippi"He is absolutely the man with the biggest experience in Italian sport, a point of reference for coaches of my generation," said Lippi of the coach who preceded him on the bench at Juventus, Inter and Italy.

"I'm very pleased to see him working with this kind of enthusiasm. I hope to be like that in ten years when I'm 70. I hope to have the same motivation and enthusiasm as Trap."

With Ireland two points behind the World champions after drawing 1-1 at home to Bulgaria on Saturday, Lippi accepts the game in Bari will be special for Trapattoni, who led the Azzurri at the 2002 World Cup and UEFA Euro 2004.

"When he hears the Italian national anthem, something will happen in his heart and his stomach," the 60-year-old Lippi said. "He is a true Italian and the national team was a major part of his career."

Italy earned an important 2-0 win at Montenegro on Saturday and a further three points against their closest rivals would put them firmly in the driving seat to qualify for South Africa.

"It is a big opportunity for us," Lippi admitted. "But it's not a decisive game, there is still a long way to go.

"If I know Trapattoni, I am sure he will manage to motivate his players in the best possible way. He will try everything to play a nasty joke on April Fools' Day."

Lippi won the Scudetto five times as Juve coach, with Trapattoni collecting seven Serie A titles – six with the Bianconeri and one with Inter – as well as domestic championships in Germany, Portugal and Austria.

Both also lifted the European Cup with Juventus, although Lippi claims bragging rights at international level having landed the World Cup with Italy in 2006.

Trapattoni, however, hopes to have a second shot at the global crown with Ireland after a disappointing campaign with Italy in 2002.

"Winning in Italy would be very important for us," Trapattoni said. "But not losing would also be good.

"I'm sure we can do well in Bari with our mentality, our usual approach. It's an honour for me to take Ireland to Italy. We can show them we are a good team. I think we can play against Italy without fear. I always think we can win. I don't think about losing."

Meanwhile, Lippi has decided not to call up a replacement for striker Antonio Di Natale, who picked up an injury in Saturday's 2-0 win in Podgorica and will miss the Azzurri's midweek clash.

Lippi resisted calls in the Italian media to include Bari-born striker Antonio Cassano, who played for Italy at Euro 2008 but has not featured in any of Lippi's squads since he replaced Roberto Donadoni at the helm.

"I will not call anyone in place of Di Natale," Lippi said. "I would like respect for those players who are not here and for the choices I make."

Source: UEFA

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