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I´ll be fit to face the Netherlands: Panucci

SoccerNews in European Championships, Serie A 7 Jun 2008


Veteran full-back Christian Panucci claimed on Saturday that he will be fit for Italy's Euro 2008 opener against the Netherlands, despite limping out of Friday training.

Panucci hurt his right knee and trudged gingerly off the pitch during Italy's public work-out at the Admira Wacker stadium near Vienna.

The 35-year-old is the oldest player in Italy's squad and is widely expected to line up as his country's first choice right back during the tournament.

His injury caused a defensive scare in the Italy camp as captain and centre-back Fabio Cannavaro was already ruled out of the tournament earlier in the week after damaging ankle ligaments.

But AS Roma's Panucci insisted that he will be able to shackle Real Madrid winger Arjen Robben if called-upon to do so on Monday.

He said he is eager to make up for being given the run-around by Robben when the pair met in the Champions League earlier this season.

“I feel better. Yesterday I felt my knee ligament and I preferred not to continue training,” he said.

“I still have a bit of pain but I think I'll be available against the Netherlands.

“I don't want to miss out on such a match. I really want to play against Robben again but we'll see what happens if (coach Roberto) Donadoni puts me on the pitch: in Rome I gave him to much space for half an hour.”

Panucci, who used to play for Real as well as Chelsea, is one of the players in Italy's squad who weren't part of the World Cup winning group in Germany two years ago.

He revealed he is still bitter at being left out by Marcelo Lippi, although grudgingly he accepted that he couldn't criticise the coach who guided Italy to a fourth world crown.

“I congratulate Lippi because results showed that he was right but I still think that because of a coach, rather than for technical reasons, I was denied the chance to become a world champion.”

Panucci was part of Italy's 2002 World Cup squad that was beaten in the second round by co-hosts South Korea and was also in the group that failed to get out of the pool stage at Euro 2004.

Now he is determined to win this competition to make up for his disappointment of two years ago.

“Unfortunately that's how things happened and I'm sorry for that but I'm not looking back at the past.

“If we win the final in Vienna on the 29th (of June) I wouldn't think about anything other than being a European champion.

“Having come back into this group it's clear that they're very united and I can understand why they won the World Cup.

“I congratulate them and I hope we still have the same magic formula.”


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