Italy playmaker Andrea Pirlo has described his progress following a calf injury as "encouraging" and hopes to be able to play some part in the country's final group game against Slovakia.
Pirlo's participation at the World Cup finals was placed in some doubt when he sustained the problem in a friendly defeat to Mexico last week and it is expected that he will take three weeks to recover fully.
That means the midfielder, who was named man of the match in the 2006 World Cup final, is likely to miss group games against Paraguay and New Zealand, even if Pirlo still hopes to be available to play Slovakia on June 24.
"Over the last few days I have been recovering and I feel less pain," Pirlo told Gazzetta dello Sport. "The situation is encouraging as the lesion has started to heal. I have faith, even though the return will be defined step by step."
Pirlo was described as "irreplaceable" by Marcello Lippi this week and the injured midfielder has paid tribute to the Italy coach, who led the Azzurri to glory four years ago in Germany.
"He always has nice words for me," Pirlo said. "We always call each other. There is mutual respect. He has always been close to me and I thank him for this."