Lippi says results before World Cup mean little

CAPE TOWN, South Africa, June 13, 2010 (AFP) - Italy coach Marcello Lippi said Sunday he could not understand why people doubted his team's ability to defend the World Cup, saying their results before the tournament meant nothing.

CAPE TOWN, South Africa, June 13, 2010 (AFP) - Italy coach Marcello Lippi said Sunday he could not understand why people doubted his team's ability to defend the World Cup, saying their results before the tournament meant nothing.

The Italians' preparations have been far from ideal with a defeat to Mexico and a draw with the Swiss, which has seen them come under intense pressure from the Italian media and public.

But Lippi said he did not agree with the scepticism.

"I can tell you that we have a great will to do well," he said ahead of their opening Group F clash against Paraguay at Cape Town's Green Point Stadium on Monday.

Marcello Lippi kicks the ball during training session Cape Town's Green Point Stadium on June 13, 2010.
Marcello Lippi kicks the ball during training session Cape Town's Green Point Stadium on June 13, 2010.

"Your scepticism, I don't agree with that. You are sceptical from two matches that were part of the program we had leading us here.

"They were not crucial games. I can't deny that some injuries may have prevented us experimenting or doing some things I wanted. But I can assure you this team is ready to play great matches.

"There are no doubts about their condition."

Paraguay shape as Italy's hardest test in a group that also includes Slovakia and minnows New Zealand.

Lippi, who led Italy to the title in 2006, said one thing he had learned through experience was that the build-up to a tournament like the World Cup meant little.

"One of the most important things I learned from the World Cup last time is that everything that comes before it counts for nothing," he said.

"You can have have 10 great games and then the World Cup comes and it can be totally different.

"We didn't get the feeling that we were such a great team four years ago, it happened after two or three matches. A team becomes a great squad during the World Cup.

"We want to be born as of today and grow. I won't promise an epic month, but I can promise a great will and determination to do that."

Lippi was not ready to confirm his line-up for Monday, but he gave a clear indication of what it would be when they beat local team the Guateng All Stars 6-0 in a practice match on Friday.

He played what seemed to be his top side for one hour in a 4-3-3 system.

The defence comprised Gianluca Zambrotta and Domenico Criscito flanking captain Fabio Cannavaro and Giorgio Chiellini in the centre ahead of Gianluigi Buffon.

With Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi rested with injuries, Gennaro Gattuso joined Riccardo Montolivo and Claudio Marchisio in midfield with Vincenzo Iaquinta and Simone Pepe either side of Alberto Gilardino up front.

He said he considered the Paraguay clash of huge importance.

"Let me take this opportunity to clarify something. It is said we attach too much importance to the first match, but that is always the case," he said.

"The first match is the most important. It is not decisive or crucial, but if your performance is good then everything else becomes easier.

"A great team's esteem grows as it goes along and that is fed by its performances. That is what a team draws strength from."

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