Lippi puts priority on versatility for World Cup

Published Jun. 2, 2010 2:47 p.m. ET

Versatility was the key factor for Italy coach Marcello Lippi in deciding on his final 23-man World Cup squad, and that's why he selected Napoli forward Fabio Quagliarella over Giuseppe Rossi and Marco Borriello.

"That was the key criteria," Lippi said on Wednesday at Italy's training camp in the Italian Alps. "The choices were all made based on adaptability to different positions on the field. All the exclusions were tough to make and Giuseppe Rossi was especially difficult because he's been with us the longest."

Lippi also cut fourth goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu, defender Mattia Cassani and midfielder Andrea Cossu two hours before FIFA's midnight deadline on Tuesday.

Rossi was born in the United States to Italian parents and has dual citizenship but has always had his mind set on playing for Italy. He has appeared 14 times for the Azzurri, scoring three goals, but struggled during the second half of this season with his Spanish club Villarreal.

Quagliarella can play virtually any position in attack and is also a scoring threat from beyond the area, as evidenced by several spectacular goals this season.

Lippi said the five players cut would remain with the team for friendlies against Mexico on Thursday and Switzerland on Saturday, adding that Cossu could go to South Africa as a 24th man in case Mauro Camoranesi's injured left knee doesn't heal.

The coach also suggested the Mexico game was the more important of the two friendlies because Mexico plays similarly to Paraguay, Italy's first opponent at the World Cup.


Lippi retained nine players from the team that won the World Cup four years ago in Germany: Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluca Zambrotta, Camoranesi, Daniele De Rossi, Gennaro Gattuso, Andrea Pirlo, Alberto Gilardino and Vincenzo Iaquinta.

All 23 players selected are based in Italy. The three youngest are each 23 - defenders Salvatore Bocchetti, Leonardo Bonucci and Domenico Criscito - and Cannavaro is the oldest at 36.

"Everyone was saying, and I still hear it today, that I'm too attached to the champions. But I've changed 50 percent of the squad," Lippi said. "We've got a lot of young players and they're really all experts. They're the future of the national team, but they've also got to be the present."