Lippi still playing a guessing game

Marcello Lippi will keep everyone guessing right up to just before kick-off this evening, but let us hope that the Italy coach is not playing the guessing game as well.

For a man who likes nothing better than sailing off the shores of his beloved Viareggio, he seems to be heading into choppy waters without a clear idea on how to navigate them.

It seems for once that the master planner is not completely at ease with his starting line-up going into the Group F opener against Paraguay.

The party headed down to wet and windy Cape Town from their lofty Casa Azzurri retreat - which has been turned into a home from home to help ease the burden on a squad that has so many players making their debuts in a major tournament - not looking like a group that has retaining the title in its sights.

Lippi has spent the last five days rolling through different formations and switching players from one position to another to such an extent that Italy will start the campaign as the most versatile team in the competition.

Considering that Andrea Pirlo is missing until probably the final group game - although the playmaker has started jogging again - and that the new faces have been looking as pale as the skies, a draw would be the brightest outcome.

Most worryingly has been the sight of Giorgio Chiellini playing training games at left-back when his pace and ability to attack the ball are needed alongside Fabio Cannavaro who held the whole team together four years ago, but will be playing in Dubai next season – and enough has been said about the captain’s fading powers.

Christian Maggio has sealed the right-back role and this leaves Domenico Crisctio and another old war-horse Gianluca Zambrotta competing for the left-back spot, with hopefully the Genoa man getting the nod.

Riccardo Montolivo should partner Daniele De Rossi in the holding role, with Claudio Marchisio flanked by Simone Pepe and Vincenzo Iaquinta further ahead.

While Pepe will be inclined to hold his position out wide on the right and Marchisio’s natural inclination will be to drop back, Iaquinta will be busting a gut like the willing work-horse he is to support Alberto Gilardino.

It will be a formation that could easily be cast adrift as the game progresses - and if Italy can find a breakthrough then the opposition could well run aground against a five-man midfield.

If anyone can plot a course to a successful tournament it is Lippi, but he will need to steady the ship immediately to ensure a long voyage ahead.

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