Italy's players left in the dark on lineup

Italy's players left in the dark on lineup

Published Jun. 10, 2010 2:27 p.m. ET

Coach Marcello Lippi insists he has clear ideas about his lineup, but Italy's players are still guessing just four days before the defending World Cup champ opens its title defense against Paraguay.

``We don't know anything. He hasn't told us yet,'' veteran defender Gianluca Zambrotta said Thursday. ``We don't know if this means he hasn't decided, it just means he hasn't told us.''

Zambrotta was the only player to start both of Italy's pre-tournament friendlies - a 2-1 loss to Mexico and 1-1 draw with Switzerland - and seems to have secured a lineup spot, but even he doesn't know whether that will be at left or right back.

``For me it's the same if I play left or right,'' he said. ``The rest depends on Lippi. I'm at the disposal of the team.''


Besides Gianluigi Buffon in goal, captain Fabio Cannavaro in central defense and Alberto Gilardino at center forward, it's possible that no other player knows what position he'll be assigned.

Lippi switched formations at will during the friendlies - from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3 to a traditional 4-4-2 and even said he's considered using a three-man defense with Giorgio Chiellini at left back.

Leonardo Bonucci, Salvatore Bocchetti, Domenico Criscito and Christian Maggio have also been tested at various spots in defense.

With Andrea Pirlo out with a left calf injury for perhaps the entire group phase, there are also numerous questions in midfield.

Riccardo Montolivo seems the top candidate to replace Pirlo after Daniele De Rossi struggled against Mexico, although Angelo Palombo also is pushing for a spot. Mauro Camoranesi is still recovering from a left knee problem and it's unclear who will start on the right wing - possibly Vincenzo Iaquinta or Fabio Quagliarella.

Iaquinta has openly acknowledged he doesn't feel comfortable on the wing, and the more versatile Quagliarella excelled against Switzerland, scoring an early equalizer.

Antonio Di Natale, who led Serie A with 29 goals this season, seems the likely choice on the left wing - depending on how many forwards Lippi uses.

Following along the lines of what Lippi said a day earlier, Zambrotta suggested that this Italy team will be able to change formations from one game to the next - or during matches.

``It's not just a question of formations, it's about flexibility,'' Zambrotta said. ``There is absolutely no perplexity inside the team. We are 23, we are available for the coach. There is no problem, no problem with positions or adapting.''