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Italy ask del Piero to play ultimate captain´s role

SoccerNews in European Championships, Serie A 12 Jun 2008


Alessandro del Piero will lead Italy in their fight for Euro 2008 survival with Romania here on Friday after the Juventus star was restored to the world champions' starting line-up.

Coach Roberto Donadoni, whose squad are under intense pressure after their 3-0 defeat by Holland in the opening match, also confirmed that Juve centreback Giorgio Chiellini would start his first match of the tournament.

Chiellini had been widely expected to come into the starting line-up instead of Marco Materazzi, who was given a torrid time by the Dutch after starting that match in the centreback slot normally occupied by the injured Fabio Cannavaro.

Del Piero's return to the side is expected to come at the expense of Antonio di Natale and, in line with Italian tradition, he takes the captain's armband from goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon as the most capped player in the line-up.

Donadoni said del Piero and Chiellini would be part of a side featuring three or four changes from the team that began against Holland, but he would not be drawn further on his plans for the group C clash.

Del Piero was not a regular starter for Italy during their qualifying campaign but his introduction as a second-half substitute against the Dutch led to their best period of the match.

Donadoni insisted that it would take a resilient team performance to get the better of a Romanian side that held France to a goalless draw in their opening match.

But he acknowledged that del Piero's ability to produce the unexpected in and around opponents' penalty areas could make the difference in what he expects to be a cagey, tough encounter.

“My hope is for everyone to play to the maximum of their ability. We need the best game we can possibly get and that applies to everyone. We won't get 100 percent from del Piero if we don't get 100 pecent from everyone else.

“The Romanians are going to make it hard for us so we have to have charismatic players on the pitch.”

Donadoni insisted that he would not make the mistake of under-estimating a Romanian side that took four points out of six from Holland in their qualifying campaign.

“It is no coincidence they made it difficult for France. I said when everyone was talking about Italy, France and Holland to watch out for Romania.

“They are a tough team with technically able and physically tough players so it is going to be tough.”

Donadoni is counting on a strong reaction from his players after a mauling by the Dutch that was Italy's worst defeat ever in a European Championship finals and their biggest loss in any match in 25 years.

“It is very good and important for the players to feel angry,” Donadoni said. “That is a good reaction but anger has to be managed. It must make them focused and if that happens we will have all the right cards to play a good game.”

The introduction of del Piero, who likes to play just behind target man Luca Toni, could allow Donadoni to switch to a classic 4-4-2 formation but the captain could also be asked to fill the same left-sided role as di Natale did in the 4-3-3 set-up deployed against the Dutch.

The other changes in the line-up are expected to see Fabio Grosso come in at left-back with Christian Panucci dropping out and Gianluigi Zambrotta switching to right-back, while Gennaro Gattuso is tipped to be dropped from the midfield after failing to break up the Dutch counterattacks that did so much damage on Monday.


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