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May 2, 2006

Lippi clear on final 23 and upbeat over Totti

ROME, May 2 (Reuters) - Italy coach Marcello Lippi has a 'pretty definite idea' of the 23 players who will make up his World Cup squad and says he is optimistic that Roma's Francesco Totti will be fit for the June tournament.

Lippi told reporters, before the start of a two day pre-World Cup training camp, that he had invited several new faces into the squad as part of a long-term project but refused to be drawn on the World Cup chances of individual players.

'I will make my decision on the final squad on May 15,' said Lippi, 'I have pretty definite idea (of the 23),' he added.

But the Italy coach said not too much should be read into the 29 players he called up for this week's session in the Italian capital and hinted that some have been included with the long-term, post World Cup, development of the squad in mind.

'There are 29 players here and I wanted them to feel part of the project - this is not a project that stops at the World Cup. Don't forget that shortly after the World Cup we have a friendly in August and then in September qualification for the European championships begins,' said Lippi.

'We have been following the progress of more than just 23 players and this is a reward for them and also a way for them to feel involved,' he said.

Fiorentina defenders Alessandro Gamberini and Manuel Pasqual, Chievo midfielder Franco Semioli, Parma winger Marco Marchionni and Empoli forward Francesco Tavano - all uncapped - are part of the training group along with several recalled players, such as Milan forward Filippo Inzaghi.

'There are some who won't be there but they need to feel proud and satisfied in the knowledge that they are part of the group even if they don't go to the World Cup they are part of our squad,' said Lippi.

No players from Inter Milan or AS Roma, who meet in the Italian Cup final, first-leg on Wednesday, have been included in the squad while there are a few regulars, such as Totti, who remain out with injury.

The 29-year-old Totti, a key player for the Azzurri, has been out of action since undergoing surgery to repair a bone he fractured in his left ankle during a Serie A match against Empoli on Feb. 19

The Roma forward is making progress and could return to action in the final two weeks of the Italian season.

'Totti is doing well, there is cause for optimism,' said Lippi, 'He is very enthusiastic and keen to get back.'

Lippi was more downbeat about the chances of Monaco striker Christian Vieri who has been struggling with a knee injury.

'Christian is a bit behind and he hasn't been able to get back to intensive training but I will be following his progress and we will see on May 15,' he said.

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