Lippi will not close the door on Del Piero

October 7, 2008

MILAN, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Alessandro Del Piero's international career is not over despite being dropped for Italy's upcoming World Cup qualifiers, coach Marcello Lippi said.

The Juventus striker was left out of the squad on Sunday for Saturday's Group Eight match against Bulgaria in Sofia and next Wednesday's game against Montenegro in Lecce.

The 33-year-old was continually overlooked by previous coach Roberto Donadoni but forced his way into the Euro 2008 squad after finishing top scorer in Serie A last season for the first time. His form has dipped for Juve in recent weeks.

"I called him, we talked," World Cup-winning coach Lippi told reporters.

"I wanted to look at some new players, I explained this to him and he understood. I also told him to continue doing what he has always done."

Despite a string of injuries to experienced players, with Gianluigi Buffon and Mauro Camoranesi added to the casualty list on Tuesday, Lippi called up uncapped quartet Fabiano Santacroce, Giuseppe Rossi, Simone Pepe and Christian Maggio.

Napoli defender Santacroce, born in Brazil, is one of the few black players to be called up by Italy. Racism remains a problem in Italian sport and society.

"We live in intolerant times. If the presence of Santacroce with the national team sends a message against racism, I am happy about that," added Lippi, who said he had not even thought about Santacroce's colour when picking his squad.