Lucky? Marcello Lippi isn’t afraid of stating the obvious. In the first two games of his new managerial position (the 2-2 draw vs. Austria -courtesy of a goalkeeping blunder- and the painstaking 2-1 win over Cyprus on Saturday) lady luck was a big factor for the Azzurri, and their manager freely admits it. “I’m not sorry if people say I’m lucky. In Saturday’s game, I sure was, and you can find many examples in my career where good fortune contributed to a win. But there were also many many more victories which had nothing to do with luck.”
Amen to that Marcello, but everyone here will agree that Charalambous’s near-misses or Kostantinou’s shots straight at Buffon are just a darn fine example of good karma. The same type of karma which the Azzurri would desperately need in the infirmary: indeed, another player joined the injury list in the Italian roster on Sunday. Midfield dynamo and Azzurri “Braveheart” Gennaro Gattuso broke his wrist during a tackle in training (he slid and hurt himself falling into the sideline dugout), and will have to stay sidelined for at least a month (in his replacement Lippi called up Antonio Nocerino). After Alessandro Gamberini‘s dislocated shoulder and Fabio Grosso‘s broken ribs (both sustained during the match against Cyprus), things could be merrier at Coverciano right now.
But returning to Lippi, the Italian manager announced that his anti-Georgia line-up will be in many parts different that what we saw last Saturday. “I will make many changes” said Lippi, “and not just because of yesterday. I had planned this beforehand, because our fitness preparation is still fairly limited so early in September. Many players are tired, and playing two physically demanding matches in three days takes a big toll on your body. I will have to evaluate everyone’s condition, and then we’ll decide.”
Tactics-wise, Lippi also defended his three-men attacking formation and Luca Toni. “In my opinion, such a line-up is best used at the start of a match than during. When you throw several strikers into the mix like that, it’s generally because you are trailing behind. Toni? It’s just a fitness problem: he’s only played in one single Bundesliga game so far. He’s a very important player for the national team, and he will continue to be one and score goals.”
And speaking of fitness, the Italian manager also took the opportunity to make a suggestion on improving it. “Serie A should really start a few weeks earlier. But I am glad that the defending world champions are forced to go through a qualifying round. Playing tough matches is very important for the shaping & molding of a team. I have absolute faith in this group of people: in the next two years I will gradually introduce younger players into the roster, and this will give us the opportunity to grow. Our objective is to qualify for the 2010 World Cup without going through same painstaking efforts of Saturday.“