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Italians search for scoring touch

19/06/2010 11:31:15 AM Comments (0)

Italy's forwards are struggling so much they can barely find the goal in training.

During one drill after another at the Azzurri's World Cup training ground this week, the likes of Alberto Gilardino, Vincenzo Iaquinta and Antonio Di Natale have been unable to find the target - with no defenders in the way.

"If you don't ever attack the shooting area you're never going to score," coach Marcello Lippi screamed at his players during one particularly poor intra squad training game.

"When your teammate has the ball you can't wait around watching him. You've got to keep attacking or you're never going to find the goal," the coach added, slamming a ball to the ground for effect.

During Italy's last six games, it has scored just four goals and only one of those was by a forward - Fabio Quagliarella in a 1-1 draw with Switzerland in a pre-World Cup friendly.

When the defending champion drew 1-1 with Paraguay in its opener, midfielder Daniele De Rossi scored the equaliser.

"We're lacking a bit of everything," De Rossi said when asked to analyse the squad's scoring problems. "A bit more nastiness would certainly help. The ball has been skidding away and it hasn't been easy to complete that last pass. But we can definitely improve."

Italy meets New Zealand on Sunday, then closes out Group F play against Slovakia four days later.

Lippi started with a 4-2-3-1 against Paraguay with Claudio Marchisio directing Iaquinta, Gilardino and Simone Pepe - then closed the match with a 4-4-2, with Di Natale and Gilardino leading the attack.

Iaquinta and Gilardino hardly saw the ball, and Marchisio visibly struggled to set up the strikers. Still, it's unclear if Lippi will make any lineup or formation changes against New Zealand

Di Natale led Serie A with 29 goals in the recently concluded season with Udinese and is an obvious candidate to replace Iaquinta or Gilardino. Giampaolo Pazzini, who scored 19 goals with Sampdoria, is another option. The only other forward in the squad is Quagliarella.

Lippi left 1.93-metre striker Luca Toni and US-born forward Giuseppe Rossi at home, as well as controversial but talented scorers Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli.

"We have forwards who have scored a lot of goals, but let's not forget that we won the last World Cup without a Paolo Rossi and nobody complained," De Rossi said, referring to the striker who scored six goals in the last three games when Italy won the 1982 World Cup.

In 2006, Toni and defender Marco Materazzi led Italy with two goals apiece, while a bunch of other players added one goal each.

Perhaps due to the problems in attack - as well as nine players over 30 - few critics are picking Italy to repeat.

De Rossi said the squad would be satisfied if it reaches the semi-finals.

"Not qualifying for the second round would be a complete failure," the AS Roma midfielder said. "It would be like New Zealand going out in the first round of the Rugby World Cup. I think finishing among the top four would be a respectable result."

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