DUISBURG, Germany, June 18 (Reuters) - Italy are at their best when the pressure is on and not when they are basking in success, coach Marcello Lippi said on Sunday.
The Azzurri were held to a 1-1 draw by the nine-man United States on Saturday after beginning their campaign with an impressive performance in the 2-0 win over Ghana.
'We are made for knockout games,' said Lippi, 'Our mentality is that we give our best when it is a one-off.
'All the praise that the team received for their performance against Ghana might have caused some kind of easing off from the players,' he told a news conference.
'I said before the tournament that this was a very tough group but after the win over Ghana -- which was a good performance but not exceptional -- we heard that it was going to be easier against the U.S. and that we would take the group and so on.
'In fact with Ghana beating the Czechs this is proving to be a tough group. The U.S. performance against us showed that as well,' added Lippi.
'Why did I have fear, before the game, of us easing off? It was because that is part of our DNA,' he said.
The Italy coach said that with a decisive game against the Czechs on Sunday for a place in the knockout stage there was no longer any danger of his side taking the foot off the gas.
'From now on we can't have that problem because every game will be a question of staying in the tournament or going out,' said Lippi.
Italy, who had Daniele de Rossi sent off against the States; go into their final game leading the group with four points -- one more than Ghana and the Czechs and three ahead of the U.S.