Honest Cannavaro sums up Italy problems

IRENE, South Africa - Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro gave fans of the faltering world champions little reason to be cheerful on Friday. In fact, he gave no reason at all.

"I am very confident - but I don't know why," the 36-year-old told a half empty news conference at Italy's base for the World Cup.

The fact so few press turned up to see the 2006 World Cup-winning captain in what will be his last major tournament is another indication that few expect the Azzurri to make any major impact in South Africa given recent poor friendly displays.

If fans were not already clear about Italy's problems, Cannavaro kindly listed their deficiencies.

"The friendlies weren't as good as four years ago so people are sceptical," he said, dressed in a dark t-shirt which reflected a somewhat sombre mood.

"Maybe we don't have a star like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, (Wayne) Rooney. We can't play like Brazil, Spain or Portugal."

Coach Marcello Lippi has also been employing various formations in training and the players still do not know what system he will use in their Group F opener against Paraguay in Cape Town on Monday.

NO EXPERIENCE

Cannavaro's usual central defensive partner Giorgio Chiellini could switch to left back in a surprise move while midfielder Angelo Palombo has been training occasionally at centre-back despite having almost no experience in the role.

Again, the skipper struggled to sound convincing.

"With Giorgio we've played lots of times together but whoever is here has the quality to play there. Palombo is an extreme solution who has never played there but he is a very good midfielder," he said.

"We have an obligation to think positive and look forward. For you it might look like a mess but the coach will have the formation in his head. I don't see anything strange."

Cannavaro, who said previously he will almost certainly not play for Italy again after the tournament, is a shadow of the rock-solid centre back who inspired his side to glory four years ago and won the world player of the year award for his efforts.

Age has quickly caught up with him and he is now often beaten for pace while his positional sense has also suffered.

Rather than include his demise in the catalogue of Italy's troubles, Cannavaro is already looking forward to seeing out the twilight of his career with Dubai's Al Ahli from July following a torrid last season with faltering Juventus.

"Certainly Dubai is a different life, different football but there's the sea and it's hot," he smiled, adding that Lippi would make a great coach of the UAE team given the 62-year-old has no plans once he leaves his post after the World Cup.

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