IRENE, South Africa - A pumped-up Marcello Lippi rejected accusations Italy were too long in the tooth after old timer Mauro Camoranesi gave the world champions a boost in their first South Africa training session on Wednesday.
Critics have lambasted coach Lippi for relying too heavily on his 2006 heroes and not bringing more youth to the World Cup following a lacklustre qualification and friendly campaign.
"We are not the oldest, there are a couple of teams older than us," Lippi told a news conference at a college near Pretoria which will act as Italy's "Casa Azzurri" or "home of the Blues" during the tournament.
"We have a mix, nine players from 2006 is less than 50 percent. I haven't seen a team at a World Cup that four years later turn up with 23 new players. We have the right mix with young players and those with quality."
Italy take on Paraguay in their Group F opener in Cape Town on Monday before meeting New Zealand and Slovakia.
"My motivation is a lot greater than four years ago," Lippi added. "I don't know why. I'm a lot more pumped up now."
Italy, who arrived after dawn following a 10-hour flight, earlier trained at a nearby converted cricket pitch among the rolling, rural hills south of Pretoria.
Midfielder Andrea Pirlo, poised to miss the first two group matches because of a calf problem, was the only member of the squad not to train during the leisurely session.
Winger Camoranesi, 33 and a World Cup winner in 2006, took part in most of the session having nearly recovered from a knee problem which had worried doctors only last week.
Midfielder Claudio Marchisio did some jogging away from the main group as he rediscovers full fitness after a leg injury.
"It's reasonable to think that next Monday they will all be available except for Pirlo," Lippi added.
"I have clear ideas but I've not been able to translate it onto the field because there have been problems and injuries. But from tomorrow, except for Pirlo, I can do what I have in my head. I want a defence a bit more compact which means we can have players further forward who don't need to defend."
The coach also gave the strongest hint yet that Pirlo will not be replaced in the squad before the first game.
"He came as we all have the confidence that maybe by the third game he can be there. We will cope," Lippi said without wishing to name Riccardo Montolivo as Pirlo's replacement.
Fighter jets roared overhead the training session as around a hundred journalists watched Lippi joke about by throwing corner flag posts around like javelins.
"People say Italy are slow starters, but how often has it worked? Lots," Italy's 1982 World Cup winner Alessandro Altobelli told Reuters.comments