Trapattoni: Cassano controversy will not hurt Italy

BARI, Italy - Marcello Lippi's decision to exclude Antonio Cassano from the Italy squad will have no bearing on Wednesday's World Cup qualifier, Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni said. Cassano was born in Bari and media have speculated that some Italy fans from the southern city will boo Lippi during the game for overlooking the in-form Sampdoria playmaker. "I believe he is worth a place in the national team but coaches make their decisions according to their convictions," former Italy coach Trapattoni told a news conference on Tuesday. "I gave him his Italy debut and I treated him like a son. He repaid me with great performances in Portugal (at Euro 2004). But the controversy of recent days will not be an advantage to Ireland because the Italians will support their national team." Trapattoni, who recently turned 70 on St Patrick's Day, said second-placed Ireland faced a tough battle against the world champions, who lead Group Eight by two points after Saturday's 2-0 win in Montenegro. "We will aim high," he said. "It will be a battle between David, Ireland, and Goliath, Italy. I would be a hypocrite if I said it would upset me to beat the Azzurri." Lippi does not expect to be booed in Bari. "I expect a packed stadium that's joyful and Italian," he told reporters earlier. "If they want to do something else, they'll do it, that's their business. But I don't believe it will happen, I expect the stadium to support Italy." Lippi, who could hand a first start to striker Giampaolo Pazzini, refused to name his team and expected Trapattoni to be similarly cunning. "I don't think Trapattoni will reveal his team either," he said. "They call him the silver fox. Do I expect any tricks? The true trick is a coach who knows how to get the best out of the players. He knows how to do that very well."