Dreamy Italy happy to be caught napping

IRENE, South Africa - While Italy coach Marcello Lippi tosses and turns in his sleep mulling tactics, his players are happily drifting into the Land of Nod after finally getting used to South Africa's altitude.

Napping at the World Cup is not easy for some visitors given large parts of northern South Africa lie well above 1,200 metres and altitude can effect sleep patterns.

At last June's Confederations Cup in the country, the world champions had trouble getting enough rest and were dumped out in the group stage after losing twice.

This time the Azzurri decided to go on a 10-day altitude training camp in the Italian Alps before flying to South Africa and it has so far paid dividends -- in bed at least.

"Compared to last year when there was a strong impact at the Confederations Cup, we have noted that the lads no longer have any problems in recovery after running," Italy's team doctor Enrico Castellacci told reporters after a training session.

"At night no one wakes up a lot any more, like happened in 2009 when we were first at altitude."

Those in the cities might also be woken by excitable fans blowing vuvuzelas long into the night, but there is no such problem at Italy's quiet retreat south of Pretoria where the only noise comes from fighter jets from a nearby airforce base.

Most World Cup teams have based themselves on the Highveld surrounding Johannesburg so they will not be out of breath when they have to play at altitude.

Italy start their World Cup Group F campaign on Monday against Paraguay on the coast at Cape Town, where they should find conditions easier.

A bad result, though, for the out-of-form holders and those sleepless nights could come flooding back.

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