Football: Italians playing for World Cup places
ROME - Italy's fringe players will be given the chance to stake a claim for a place in coach Marcello Lippi's World Cup squad in South Africa next year when they host Sweden in Cervia on Wednesday.
While Lippi picked a largely first choice formation for Saturday's 0-0 draw with the Netherlands in Pescara, he has vowed to ring the changes for this one and give players an opportunity to force their way into his plans.
"There will be many changes. Now is the time to have a look at other players," he said.
"(Gianluigi) Buffon, (Fabio) Cannavaro, (Gianluca) Zambrotta and (Andrea) Pirlo play so many games that if I can give them some time off I will. "There are 16-17 players who are already certain to be in the World Cup squad, the others will be chosen and calibrated according to their positions, so that we can have a homogeneous squad.
"For example, (Antonio) Candreva can play in (Simone) Perrotta's role where at the moment we have only (Claudio) Marchisio."
Candreva was the only international debutant against the Dutch in a woeful match but Lippi will call on several players fighting for a place in his squad for the Sweden clash.
Given 23 players will go to South Africa it means that six or seven spots are still up for grabs.
But even if the regulars under-performed on Saturday, Lippi is not worried about that.
"Are we not sparkling yet? Well, we don't need to play a great match to find conviction," he added.
"All we need to do is quietly prepare for the World Cup. We're going to use the friendlies we have left and the club matches that remain to take to South Africa a squad that is ready.
"And then we'll get there in the right conditions athletically." Of the regular first choice players only Juventus centre-back Giorgio Chiellini is likely to start while Livorno's Candreva could get another opportunity.
One player who won't, though, is Sampdoria forward Antonio Cassano, still outside the squad despite a largely positive start to this season with his club and notwithstanding the "Superman" pitch-invader in Pescara who protested against Cassano's continued exclusion.
"I don't care what he did or what he had written on his shirt, I think the security should be better," said Lippi.
"But this isn't going to hold me up, even if this event becomes a torment on a national level."
While Italy have qualified for the World Cup, Sweden missed out due to home and away defeats to local rivals Denmark.
Lars Lagerback promptly resigned and Erik Hamren took over. This match will also see the return of former Inter Milan favourite Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Italy.
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