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Stalemate on cards as Italy lack creativity.

Byline: GABRIELE MARCOTTI

ITALY have been written off in just about every corner of the world and with good reason - I just cannot see us defending our trophy in South Africa this summer.

Marcello Lippi has rotated players and changed formations constantly without finding the formula and tonight's match against Paraguay in Cape Town has got draw written all over it.

There is not a great deal of love for this team in Italy, but Lippi is a big believer in the theory that a player does not have to be in form to be important at a World Cup.

It's the opposite to what people say in England where everyone is obsessed by current form. Lippi reckons it is okay to have had a rubbish season as long as he can count on you to perform for just one month in these finals.

For instance, he keeps telling us out here in South Africa that Rino Gattuso has been firing on all cylinders in training and is physically and mentally spot on despite a poor domestic campaign for Milan in Serie A. And you have to respect Lippi for all he has done in his career, not least lifting the World Cup in Germany four years ago.

He is helped by having a squad who are tactically versatile and adaptable so it has been a case of him trying different things in training and friendlies rather than Lippi becoming a mad tinkerman.

However, I cannot trust them at short prices, particularly as the injured Andrea Pirlo is unlikely to figure. We basically have two-and-a-half creative midfielders with Pirlo the standout performer.

Mauro Camoranesi is the other real creative influence, but he is also suffering from injuries and coming off a shocking season at Juventus.

The "half" is Claudio Marchisio, who has got the talent but is relatively untried at international level.

He was an unmitigated disaster in the free role in a 4-2-3-1 formation in a recent friendly defeat against Mexico and I get the feeling that Lippi will revert to a 4-3-3 against Paraguay.

Our best player, Daniele De Rossi, seems to be getting one knock after another and the forward line is functional rather than spectacular.

Italy would be far from despondent with a point from their opening Group E fixture and the draw also does Paraguay nicely.

The South Americans qualified easily from the Conmebol section and are well organised and difficult to break down. Neither team will want to be hit on the counter-attack and it is difficult to see anything other than a tight 90 minutes with the draw a big runner.

Recommendation Italy v Paraguay draw 23-10 Totesport

CAPTION(S):

Italy manager Marcello Lippi certainly seems to command respect on the training pitch
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jun 14, 2010
Words:460
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