Sunday, 29 March 2009

Lippi urges Azzurri to pull clear

Italy coach Marcelo Lippi wants to build on the advantage they now have at the top of FIFA World Cup Qualifying Group Eight as they prepare to face the Republic of Ireland.

Marcelo LippiThe Azzurri triumphed 2-0 in Montenegro on Saturday night to move two points clear of Ireland who could only draw 1-1 at home to Bulgaria.

Italy welcome Giovanni Trapattoni's men to Bari on Wednesday and Lippi knows that victory would set the world champions well on their way to South Africa.

"Now we have two points over Ireland who drew with Bulgaria," he said. "And we have the possibility on Wednesday to build a good advantage, even if two points is already a good advantage."

Andrea Pirlo put Italy in front from the spot after 11 minutes after Radoslav Batak handled in the area, and Giampaolo Pazzini came on as a second half substitute to score on his debut.

"I'm pleased with the result," continued Lippi. "In the first half we didn't play very well, we got the gift of a penalty. We didn't deserve the lead but we didn't concede anything.

"In the second half the team really created a lot and did so with character. We only took one of our chances but I'm happy with the lads' performance.

"I'm especially happy for Pazzini who at the moment when he touches the ball it goes in."

Pazzini is indeed going through a purple patch, having scored 11 goals in 12 appearances since joining Sampdoria from Fiorentina in January.

The only downer of the night was the sight of Antonio Di Natale being stretchered off early with a knee injury.

The Udinese striker faces further tests but there are fears he could have damaged his cruciate ligament and the 31-year-old admits he is worried.

Pazzini is expected to be given a starting spot on Wednesday, along with Giuseppe Rossi who was unused in Podgorica on Saturday.

Di Natale's injury is a blow for Lippi but even a bigger concern for Udinese who could find themselves without their leading goalscorer for the rest of the season.

Source: Eurosport

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