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By ESPN Staff

Serie A scandal affecting Italy's focus, says coach

FLORENCE, Italy, May 25 (Reuters) - Italy coach Marcello Lippi wants his team to focus on the World Cup rather than the match-fixing scandal affecting Serie A, but that is proving much easier said than done.

On Thursday even the launch of a jaunty World Cup song, normally a chance for a light-hearted display of team spirit, was overshadowed by the wave of allegations.

Before Italian rock group Pooh could present the new anthem for the Azzurri, team captain Fabio Cannavaro read out a statement clarifying his comments on the scandal which has rocked his club Juventus.

Cannavaro was quoted in Italian newspapers on Thursday as describing the telephone intercepts which have resulted in a series of investigations and resignations as "chatter" and defending Luciano Moggi, the former general manager of Juventus who is at the centre of the affair.

Under pressure from the Italian Football Federation, whose vice-president Giancarlo Abete made a public call for Cannavaro to "clear up" his statements, the defender said he had "not been clear in explaining the meaning of my thoughts".

"Those who have made mistakes should pay," said Cannavaro who expressed confidence in the judicial process.

"Clearing up the situation and providing new rules is the road, I believe, to restore credibility to Italian football and transmit enthusiasm to millions of fans."

Cannavaro's club and country team mate Gianluigi Buffon was back at the Coverciano training camp on Thursday after his trip to Parma where he spoke to magistrates investigating gambling allegations.

"Now I can really focus on the World Cup without any other thoughts on my mind," said Buffon.

"I cleared up what I had to clear up and now I feel better, like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders."

The Azzurri, who play in Group E at next month's World Cup along with Ghana, the Czech Republic and the United States, took part in another pre-tournament ritual, the team photo-call.

Inside the press conference hall it was not striker Luca Toni or forward Francesco Totti who faced the media but ex-player Demetrio Albertini, recently appointed as an advisor to Guido Rossi, the emergency administrator who is in charge of the Italian Football Federation.

Former Milan midfielder Albertini said one of his tasks as an advisor on the sporting side of the federation would be to "improve the image of Italian football abroad which at this moment is not very good".

Italy play two warm-up games before the June 9 start to the World Cup with friendlies next week against Switzerland and Ukraine.