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Lippi cuts Grosso and Candreva
The Italy manager has announced who should attend the Sestriere training camp. The hero from 4 years ago in Berlin has been excluded along with Candreva. The 5 reserves have still to be named, the official list is due on 1 June. Lippi: "It wasn't easy telling Grosso, but I can't build an Italy side based on gratitude. Totti? It would be hard for him to play every three days. Is Italy too hard on Mourinho? Ask Napolitano."

They're down to 28, the number of Italy players that is, that are left in the running for one of the 23 "safe" seats that Marcello Lippi has reserved to take with him on the 8 June flight to retain the World Cup he won 4 years ago. These 28 men - the 23 mentioned above + 5 still to be revealed reserves - have been asked to attend the high altitude training camp in Sestriere from 23 May to 4 June. In truth, it was expected that three players would be cut, forwards in particular, but Lippi is obviously keeping his options open. "I have taken another 10 days to think about it" the Italy manager explained.

cut — Lippi announced who he was dropping this afternoon. It came as a huge surprise when Fabio Grosso, the Berlin hero, was cut, not so much for technical reasons - he's had a poor season with Juventus - rather that until yesterday his place on the World Cup squad looked safe. But Lippi, after including him in the 30-player list last week, has now dropped him. "It wasn't easy telling him, just as it wasn't easy cutting 14 of the 23 who shared some important times with us in Germany. I rang him yesterday, you can't imagine how difficult that was, but I felt it had to be done, and I did it out of intellectual honesty. I told them all not to think that they'd automatically be part of the team out of gratitude." Cassani, the Palermo right back, has been added in Grosso's place. Deputy Criscito, more than likely now the first team left back, is right under Lippi's nose: the eclectic Zambrotta, who can play on both wings. Dropping Candreva, one of the midfielders, didn't come as so much of a shock: he'll be back on the Italy team after the World Cup. Lippi tried him out as soon as he started to emerge and liked him, but in that particular department there were already other more experienced and very reliable players to choose from. As for the forwards, three men are in the running for one place: Giuseppe Rossi, who's not had that great a year and a few family problems that haven't helped either, although he is improving, and Quagliarella, another second striker with a lot of imagination, of the kind that only Di Natale has amongst the forwards. Borriello is also in with a chance, a classic centre forward behind Gilardino and Pazzini.

the reserves — Prospects: goalie Sirigu will more than likeky stay at home. Lippi prefers the more experienced De Sanctis. In defence, Bocchetti could be at risk, as Lippi will probably take three centre backs: Chiellini, Cannavaro and Bonucci, because if necessary he also has Palombo who could quite easily come back a bit, and Criscito, who has recently played a central defence role. Midfield: Cossu is the most at risk, because Lippi has old-favourite albeit not 100% match fit Camoranesi as a forward wing, and Pepe, who put on a stunning season finale. Montolivo should make the final 23. Up front it's a three-man race: Rossi-Quagliarella-Borriello. It's just as much a tactical issue as a technical one, i.e. the choice between a classic striker and a dynamic forward. The final 23-man World Cup squad list will be sent to FIFA on 1 June.

The 28-player list — Goalies: Buffon, De Sanctis, Marchetti, Sirigu. Defenders: Bocchetti, Bonucci, Cannavaro, Cassani, Chiellini, Criscito, Maggio, Zambrotta. Midfielders: Camoranesi, Cossu, De Rossi, Gattuso, Marchisio, Montolivo, Palombo, Pepe, Pirlo. Strikers: Borriello, Di Natale, Gilardino, Iaquinta, Pazzini, Quagliarella, Rossi.

LIPPI'S WORDS — "Have faith in this team. I am fired up for this World Cup and ready for another whirlwind of emotions." Marcello Lippi has a message for the media: "You are an important component in the world of football, and it is important to show some people that you have confidence regardless of whether or not there is a fantasy player. When there has been in other editions (ed: referring to Cassano), the national squad were sent packing from the qualifying round, whilst on other occasions when there wasn't, the team made it all the way. Let's not forget that. There's only one way that a dream can fail to come true: being afraid it won't. Italy is always present at the big ones."

Lippi's thoughts on Totti and Balotelli — "I have always had a great relationship with Totti. We all know how Totti would struggle playing a match every three days, as his coach has mentioned too. I have never actually discussed the national team with him, although he has always said, "Hey coach, if you need me you know that I'm here." Balotelli? I never talk about players when they're not here."

LIPPI ON MOURINHO — Does Italy give Mourinho a hard time? I only talk about the national squad. Ask Napolitano."

Group — "If the Italian Football Federation" Lippi continued, "chooses a coach who works with the chefs, the kit staff, the massage team and the entire entourage to build the kind of result that we achieved four years ago, then even accepting all the scepticism, if he requalifies again for the World Cup, then doesn't he deserve a bit of faith? Italy is a country of huge talent, and never before has there been such a feeling of togetherness and the desire to pull together and be a team. There are many different ways of bridging the gap and overcoming the doubts people have about us in relation to teams like Brazil, england and Spain. Do you think this gap can be bridged by calling up 2-3 players? Would naming A, B and C make it all better? Or could we succeed by building a strong, united, tight-knit team just like we showed we were capable of on other occasions? Don't forget that some players (ed: implying Cassano and maybe Balotelli too) have been put aside by their own coaches for a several months. Who will the next Italy coach be? He'll be called survey, that way it will save the Football Federation money...".
 
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