Italy coach Marcello Lippi has injury and formation headaches to ponder during his two days off before the world champions fly out to South Africa with 24th man Andrea Cossu in tow.
World Cup winner Lippi is too experienced to let any anxiety or frustration show but he can be forgiven for tossing and turning in his sleep following Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Switzerland in their final friendly.
He fielded largely a second string and although they were still lacklustre, the display was a clear improvement on his first team’s 2-1 loss to Mexico in a friendly on Thursday.
“Italy mark 2 does not exist. We are one and the same thing,” he told reporters in Geneva when asked if the performance might alter his selections for their World Cup Group F opener against Paraguay on June 14.
One man definitely out of the Cape Town game is midfielder Andrea Pirlo, whose calf injury is so serious that Lippi is taking Cossu to South Africa despite the midfielder not being in his official squad.
Pirlo will be given until June 13, Italy’s deadline for replacing injured players in the squad, to prove he can be fit for some of the tournament with even the second match against New Zealand on June 20 looking an unlikely target.
“Yes, Andrea will come with us. We will try to get him fit for the third game, maybe the fourth,” Lippi said, adding that further injury doubts over midfielders Mauro Camoranesi, Claudio Marchisio and Angelo Palombo would not lead to extra callups.
“Only Cossu will be with us as the 24th man.”
Riccardo Montolivo, whose long, curvy hair is not unlike Pirlo’s, looks best placed to fill in for the midfielder against Paraguay after a tidy if unspectacular showing on Saturday.
Italy have been switching between 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 formations in friendlies and have tried more in training but with just over a week to go before they start the defence of their title, Lippi is not revealing which one he will use.
“In recent days we’ve tried six or seven formations. We will pick the right one,” he said.
The Azzurri, seen as real outside bets by pundits and fans to repeat their 2006 success given recent poor performances, set off for South Africa late on Tuesday.
(Editing by Jon Bramley; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)