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30 stats for Messi's 30th birthday

By ESPN Staff

Donadoni unfazed by pressure of coaching Italy

ROME, July 18 (Reuters) - Newly-appointed Italy coach Roberto Donadoni said on Tuesday that he relished the pressure of taking over the world champions.

The 42-year-old former AC Milan and Italy midfielder was named coach last Thursday following Marcello Lippi's decision to stand down just days after leading the Azzurri to victory over France in the World Cup final in Berlin.

'The responsibility on me will be even greater with the World Cup behind us, but it's better to start with a trophy in the cabinet than nothing at all,' Donadoni said.

'Pressure is part of the job. I knew that when I decided to become a coach.

'It's an honour to take over a winning team and I'll do my best to take the team forward to new successes.'

Donadoni has taken charge of the Azzurri in an uncertain period for Italian football, still reeling from the sentences handed out to four top clubs in the Serie A match-fixing scandal.

Last Friday, a sports tribunal ordered Juventus, Fiorentina and Lazio to start next season in the second-tier Serie B with points deducted after finding them guilty of conspiring with match officials to rig matches during the 2004-05 season.

AC Milan avoided relegation, but were thrown out of next season's European competitions and ordered to start the Serie A campaign on minus 15 points.

All four have announced they will appeal against the verdicts.

'I just hope the verdicts (from the appeals process) arrive quickly so that we can all get on with looking forward,' Donadoni said.

The four clubs account for 12 of Italy's 23-man World Cup squad.

Asked whether he was worried by the prospect of Italy's top players leaving the country in the fallout, Donadoni replied: 'If players decide to go abroad it could complicate things a little, but they will still be playing for big teams.

'They will still be on show. There's no chance that any of them will disappear from view.'

Donadoni's first match in charge will be a friendly against Croatia on Aug 16.

He then has a European championship qualifier against Lithuania on Sept. 2, followed by a rematch with World Cup finalists France in Paris four days later.

Donadoni said he hoped the second qualifier would not stir up bad-feeling created by the incident in the World Cup final that led to French captain Zinedine Zidane being sent off for head-butting Italy defender Marco Materazzi.

'Those first two matches are very important and very difficult and this will clearly complicate things a little, but we have to put outside factors behind us as soon as we go out on the pitch,' Donadoni said.

'It's not an episode that has been edifying for anyone involved, but I think it has been blown out of proportion.

'Only they (Materazzi and Zidane) know what happened on the pitch. If Zidane reacted the way he did then clearly there must have been some provocation.

'But I used to get provoked too when I was a player. It (his reaction) was sad to see, especially from a player of his standing'.