Italy will be out for revenge against the Unites States of America on Monday night in their FIFA Confederations Cup Group B opener.
Three years ago at the FIFA World Cup, a 1-1 draw with the Americans was the only blemish on the Azzurri's otherwise perfect run in Germany.
"This is the most important match," said Italy coach Marcello Lippi, who stepped down after the World Cup victory only to return last year. "We've got to beat the United States because if the first game goes well, then so will the following games.
"Whereas if it goes badly, it will be tougher for us to recover."
Lippi's line-up will likely contain nine members of the World Cup side, including midfielder Daniele De Rossi, whose elbow that bloodied the face of US forward Brian McBride was the lasting image of the 2006 clash.
The incident cost De Rossi a four-game ban, ruling him out for most of the World Cup. The intensely physical game ended with only 19 men on the field - 10 for Italy and nine for the United States.
"The US will puts all of their emphasis on a physical game and they should not be underestimated," said defender Giorgio Chiellini, who will likely anchor the Azzurri's injury-depleted defense.
Captain Fabio Cannavaro is out with a right calf problem and replacement Nicola Legrottaglie is doubtful with a leg muscle problem, meaning Chiellini will likely be joined by the inexperienced Alessandro Gamberini in central defense.
The injuries could mean there are no specialist central defenders on Italy's substitutes' bench at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria.
Lippi still has to decide whether to start Alberto Gilardino or Luca Toni in the Azzurri attack. Gilardino appears in better form - having scored twice in a friendly against New Zealand on Wednesday - but the coach usually prefers Toni.
Juventus forward Vincenzo Iaquinta is a likely starter on the left wing, with attacking midfielder Mauro Camoranesi on the right and American-born forward Giuseppe Rossi an option off the bench.
"Any time you get a chance to play Italy or another top team like the ones we will be facing is great," US captain Carlos Bocanegra said.
"This is how you challenge yourself, and it's what you measure yourself against. These are the best teams in the world and we want to see how we rate against them. It's a good challenge for our team.
"Italy are going to be favored and we're a little bit of the underdog. The pressure will be on them and we want to go out there and show that we can play with them and get a good result.
"We want to get through this group and compete with these good teams."
Holders Brazil meet African champions Egypt in the other Group B match.
[FIFA Confederations Cup 2009]
Source: Associated Press