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Italy aim to regain champions´ swagger on Lippi´s return

SoccerNews in Serie A 19 Aug 2008

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Italy are aiming to put their disappointing Euro 2008 campaign behind them and regain the aura of world champions here on Wednesday, when Marcello Lippi starts his second stint as national team coach with a friendly against Austria.

While nothing is officially at stake, the match is important as it is Lippi's only chance to knock his side into shape before they begin the serious business of defending their world title in next month's South Africa 2010 qualifiers away in Cyprus and at home to Georgia.

Lippi's last match on the Azzurri bench was the 2006 World Cup final victory over France in Berlin and the 60-year-old wants to continue where he left off.

“Starting again is even more beautiful,” Lippi, who was recalled to replace Roberto Donadoni after Italy were knocked out of the Euro 2008 quarterfinals by Spain, said at a press conference on Monday.

“And I'd like to start with a victory to avoid breaking the World Cup streak.”

In naming his list of 20 players for the friendly, the former Juventus boss stuck largely with the squad that won only one game in four at Euro 2008 under Donadoni, which in turn was based on his own World Cup outfit.

“When I started my national team adventure four years ago there was a team and a group to build from nothing,” he said on Monday.

“We achieved this and today we are starting again from there. This is a team of moral and technical quality that can still give a lot.”

With forwards Luca Toni and Marco Borriello injured, Lippi has recalled Alberto Gilardino, a member of his 2006 squad who is seeking to put his career back on track at new club Fiorentina after some poor seasons at AC Milan.

Juventus striker Vincenzo Iaquinta, another World Cup winner, is also back after missing Euro 2008 through injury.

Gilardino has a good chance of getting a start, possibly in the centre of an attacking trident along with Juventus duo Alessandro Del Piero and Mauro Camoranesi.

Juve's Giorgio Chiellini is out with a knee problem he suffered in a 4-1 friendly defeat against Milan on Sunday, further stretching a defence that was already without captain Fabio Cannavaro, Marco Materazzi and Alessandro Gamberini.

Nevertheless, Lippi will still be able to field three of his World Cup winners in his back-line, Andrea Barzagli, Fabio Grosso and Gianluca Zambrotta, with Milan centre back Daniele Bonera likely to complete it.

Wednesday's game is also the opening match for new Austria coach Karel Brueckner after he stepped down as manager of the Czech Republic.

Joint-hosts Austria were knocked out of Euro 2008 at the group stage although Lippi will still be wary as he started his first stint in charge of Italy with a defeat against modest opposition, losing 2-0 to Iceland in August 2004.

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