Italy coach Marcello Lippi has dropped the strongest hint yet that his country's best goalscorer will not start the World Cup Group F opener with Paraguay.
Udinese forward Antonio Di Natale, far and away the best goalscorer in Serie A last season with 29 goals, is tipped to miss out as Alberto Gilardino lined up in a training match as the central striker with Simone Pepe to his right and the sluggish Vincenzo Iaquinta out of position on the left.
When pressed, though, Lippi told journalists: ''If you don't understand the line-up you should change your trade and give up being journalists. If you don't understand the kind of line-up I am using, you better change jobs. Come on, what excuse do you have? But I'm not going to tell you, anyway.
''Let me say once again that I haven't even told the players. If I tell you today, that is not fair. We'll see if you got it right.''
Lippi, though, is happy to draw on his experiences of the victorious 2006 campaign to stay calm amid the media ''scepticism''.
''I can tell you there is a great will to do well in the tournament ,'' he said. ''The scepticism I respect, although I don't agree with it because it comes from just two friendly matches. It's part of a programme we had and that we knew would lead us here. They were not crucial.
''I don't know what the scepticism is due to. I won't deny that injury prevented me doing certain experiments, but I assure you the team are ready to play a great match. There are no doubts about our preparation.''
Meanwhile, former Juventus director general Luciano Moggi believes defending champions Italy have no hope of even reaching the quarter-finals in South Africa.
"We can forget about getting to the quarter-finals, semis or final," he told ReteCapri. "Our best hope is to make a good impression. Italy need to be completely revamped. We simply haven't churned out champions for a long time.
"There are teams far stronger than we are, starting from Argentina, even if they left Esteban Cambiasso and Javier Zanetti behind. Brazil and England are good, but let's not underestimate Paraguay, who in qualifying beat both Brazil and Argentina."