Lippi set to stick with tired and tested Azzurri

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Italy may field up to eight players who played some part in the last encounter with USA back at World Cup 2006 when the two teams meet again in the Confederations Cup.

Several of them will be back again next summer when the real action starts in South Africa, although Marcello Lippi will be looking for progress from a number of his U21 squad currently preparing for the European Championships.

Already set to make their mark are the gifted Davide Santon and Giuseppe Rossi – American-born no less – but the latter’s inclusion does draw to a close any further discussion on whether Alex Del Piero or Antonio Cassano will return to the fold.

Rossi and Santon shine vs Northern Ireland 

Lippi has two obsessions: one is remaining faithful to those who pulled off the unbelievable feat of winning the competition in Germany.

Tthe other is his correctly-held adherence to his tactically astute 4-3-3 formation.

Marcello has always matched expediency with flair as borne out by the triple attack; be it Gianluca Vialli, Fabrizio Ravanelli and Del Piero during his time in charge at Juventus or Francesco Totti, Alberto Gilardino and Luca Toni in 2006.

There may not be an embarrassment of riches going forward, but there are certainly plenty of options: the aforementioned Rossi, the rejuvenated Alberto Gilardino, the ever-reliable Vincenzo Iaquinta and Antonio Di Natale once he returns from injury.

Then there is Fabio Quagliarella and Simone Pepe who are making strong claims to be in the final party; leaving Luca Toni ostensibly the only front-man in danger of being jettisoned.

But only if Robert Acquafresca can continue his progress or if Lippi can live with the fact that Amuari has no family link with the peninsula.

The key, however, to whether the Azzurri can defend their world crown centres on the platform provided by the three players operating directly behind the front-line.

Without doubt the preferred trio would be Daniele De Rossi in the holding role flanked by Andrea Pirlo and Mauro Camoranesi.

All three played in what was probably Italy’s most expansive and thrilling performance under Lippi: a 4-1 thumping of Germany ahead of the last World Cup.

De Rossi’s subsequent flailing elbow against USA curtailed any hopes of the trio building on that performance during the tournament proper, but they are still around and in form. 

They are all authoritative figures, with De Rossi still only 25 and while Camoranesi needs a season free of injury, Pirlo is ageing gracefully.

Claudio Marchisio, Daniele Dessena and Luca Cigarini could all crave out a niche for themselves as able and youthful deputies.

"Eat this" 

Drawing on the traditional strengths of a solid defensive base is still an acquirement, and while Santon will provide stiff competition to Gianluca Zambrotta at right-back it is hoped that Domenico Criscito builds on his successful campaign with Genoa to provide an alternative to Fabio Grosso at left-back.

Of course, central defense is a worry, with no stand-out candidate ready to stake a claim as a successor to Fabio Cannavaro.

At least the captain has a year to cement his understanding with new Juventus team-mate Giorgio Chiellini.

Only a set-back of mammoth proportions this month will force Lippi back to the drawing board, but as it stands it will be the old guard on whose shoulders Italy's hopes of retaining the world crown rest.

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