Warm greeting counters chilly arrival

2009-06-09 00:00

ITALY arrived in South Africa yesterday to be mildly put out by Gauteng’s barbed wire, boom gates and security fences and greeted by an arctic wind that swept their training ground, all of which was countered by smiling faces, said coach Marcello Lippi.

The world champions arrived yesterday morning to take part in the Confederations Cup and made their way past some of Gauteng’s most intimidating security fencing to their luxury lodge in the Pretoria suburb of Irene.

Then the Azzurri, watched by a hundred or so Italian, foreign and local media, stretched their limbs at Southdown College.

Lippi admitted to being taken aback by the security in Gauteng at a press conference in the media centre at Southdowns, where espresso, hams and Italian wine were served free.

“I was aware of it because the Italian federation had been out to South Africa and done their homework. It did make an impact when I saw all those barbed wires, but we’re not out here to judge anyone.

“The training facilities are all absolutely perfect. I see happy, smiling people all over and all countries have their problems,” the mastermind of Italy’s 2006 World Cup success said.

Lippi said captain Fabio Cannavaro and Daniele de Rossi trained separately yesterday due to niggling injuries that will keep them out of a warm-up against New Zealand tomorrow night in Atteridgeville, but not a match against a Tshwane XI on Friday. Italy open their Confed campaign against U.S.A. at Loftus on Monday.

The coach said Italy are here to try to win the Confed, with building for next year’s World Cup a secondary objective.

“The top football nations like Germany, Brazil and Holland never take part in a top tournament just to look good. They always try to win. We will use the next 20 days to better ourselves and if things go well, win the trophy.”

On June 21 at Loftus, Italy meet Brazil, who beat the Azzurri 2-0 in a friendly in London in February.

“That was a friendly game where we were experimenting at the time. We lost the game and it has no impact whatsoever,” the coach said.

Asked if it was a bonus working with his side over a 20-day period as opposed to the normal four or five days, Lippi replied: “The last time I had this side for a month they had a very good result”.

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