Donadoni plots Azzurri rescue mission
Gianluigi Buffon & Alessandro Del Piero (Italy)
Desperate times call for desperate measures and Italy coach Roberto Donadoni will ring the changes as he looks to rescue the world champions' UEFA EURO 2008™ campaign against Romania at the Letzigrund Stadion in Zurich on Friday.
Italy crashed to their worst defeat in 25 years in their Group C opener against the Netherlands and face another stern test against a Romania team buoyed by a goalless draw against France that has boosted their hopes of qualifying from the toughest of sections. Only Gianluigi Buffon, Luca Toni and Andrea Pirlo are deemed safe in an Italy side that could feature up to five changes according to Donadoni. "There will be four or five players who will play tomorrow who did not play in Berne," said the Azzurri coach who has a full-strength squad at his disposal. "[Giorgio] Chiellini and [Alessandro] Del Piero will play, but I haven't mentioned any other names. If you hypothesise they will be your mistakes."
Even so, there has been a frenzy of speculation in the Italian media over the lineup with Fabio Grosso and Antonio Cassano likely to come in after impressing as substitutes against the Netherlands. Donadoni said his side were "still hurting" from that result and would do everything to put it right. "Winning is fundamental for us," he said. "We have worked towards that goal and will do everything to achieve it." Italy recovered to reach the final of the 1994 FIFA World Cup after losing their first match, and a draw here would not spell the end of their hopes. With a repeat of their 2006 World Cup final to come against France, points are at a premium as Donadoni seeks to find the balance between defence and attack. "We mustn't think if we have not scored by the fourth minute it is a disaster," he said. "The game lasts 90 minutes and we must be patient."
Romania coach Victor Piţurcă feels both sides will be playing to win, but stressed that the pressure was on the Azzurri following their heaviest loss at a UEFA European Championship. "Italy need the victory more than we do," said Piţurcă who revealed that striker Ciprian Marica was "almost certainly" out after suffering a blow to his head in training on Tuesday. "Italy are the favourites, but we came here to put on a good display and our main aim is to qualify for the knockout stage."
More in attack
For the former FC Steaua Bucureşti striker, Friday's match offers an opportunity to gain a measure of revenge against Donadoni after losing 4-0 to AC Milan in the 1989 UEFA European Champions Clubs' Cup final. Having failed to create many openings in their first game, Piţurcă knows his side have to pose more of an attacking threat. "I haven't decided who will start yet, but I might make some changes from the game against France. We will have to be vigilant in defence but there will also be times when we press in the opponents' half. The team that's better organised and can produce moments of inspiration will have the best chance of winning."