Italy coach backs squad selection

August 17, 2006

ROME, Aug 17 (Reuters) - Roberto Donadoni, new coach of world champions Italy, said he had no regrets about fielding a third-string side in Wednesday's 2-0 friendly defeat at home to Croatia.

Donadoni opted not to call-up any of the players who featured in Italy's triumphant World Cup campaign last month in Germany.

Goalkeeper Marco Amelia was the only member of Marcello Lippi's World Cup squad to feature in the defeat at Livorno and the back-up keeper did not appear during the tournament.

'I want to clear up one thing -- I would make the same choices again,' said Donadoni who gave seven players their debut for the Azzurri.

'Don't forget that the players who featured in the World Cup are in a worse physical condition than those who played in Livorno.

'It is not enough to send out players who are 'names' or lads with greater technical ability in order to win games and in any case I want to think positively,' said the former AC Milan player.

Italy's press were less generous with the daily Gazzetta dello Sport describing the match as 'an avoidable embarassment' and suggesting it would have been better to have cancelled the friendly.

'The embarassment remains and the money pocketed from the television contract is not enough to justify it,' said the paper.

Donadoni's first real test comes on Sept. 2 when Italy begin their Euro 2008 qualifying campaign at home to Lithuania in Group B.

Four days later Italy travel to France where they will come up against opponents keen to avenge their defeat in the World Cup final in Berlin.

It will be a very different Italy that will take the field in those two games with players such as captain Fabio Cannavaro and midfielder Andrea Pirlo expected back in the squad.

Donadoni's debut defeat ended Italy's unbeaten run of 25 games but the Italy coach can take some comfort from the fact that the last loss came on August 18, 2004 - Lippi's first game in charge.