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By ESPN Staff

Beleaguered Donadoni to turn to Totti

MILAN, Sept 7 (Reuters) - Italy coach Roberto Donadoni, facing criticism after a poor start to his reign in charge of the world champions, is hoping to persuade Francesco Totti to make a quicker than planned return to the Azzurri line-up.

Before the World Cup, which Italy won with a penalties victory over France in July's final, Totti had said it was '90 percent' sure that he would quit the national team but he later mellowed, saying he would probably return in 2007.

After Italy's 3-1 defeat to France on Wednesday left them with just a point from their two opening Euro 2008 group B qualifiers, Donadoni said he wanted to get Totti and other missing members of Marcello Lippi's squad back in the fold.

'What Totti actually told me was a little different (to the reports); he said that we would talk on each occasion and now I am going to call him along with all the others,' Donadoni said on Thursday.

Totti said he wanted time to get back to full fitness by focusing on his club form with Roma but now there is pressure for him to return for next month's qualifiers against Georgia and Ukraine.

The other World Cup players who have been absent from Donadoni's squad are strikers Luca Toni, Vincenzo Iaquinta and Alessandro Del Piero.

'It is not just about Totti, I want our champions back and I hope to have them for October,' said the Italy coach.

Donadoni opted not to call up the trio due to their lack of fitness -- Italy's domestic Serie A campaign does not kick off until Saturday -- but he has been criticised for altering too swiftly the successful formula adopted by Lippi.

FRENCH REVENGE

In his first game in charge, an August friendly against Croatia, Donadoni fielded a third-string side without any player who had taken part in the World Cup and the experimental line-up lost 2-0.

On Saturday, Italy were held to a 1-1 draw against Lithuania in Naples before allowing the French revenge in Paris for their World Cup defeat.

The Italians are already five points behind leaders Scotland and France in the group and run the risk of missing out on Euro 2008 unless they can swiftly rediscover their form.

The choice of the inexperienced 42-year-old Donadoni, who has never coached a major club, as Lippi's replacement was hailed as brave and forward-looking by Italy's media as they basked in their World Cup success.

After the poor start, however, some commentators are turning their guns on the former Milan midfielder.

'How to reduce Lippi's masterwork to pieces in just three weeks,' was the headline on an editorial in the daily La Nazione, the first article to call for Donadoni's replacement.

'They say that the Federation asked Lippi to come back as 'supervisor' of the national team. That is another error. Lippi should come back as national team coach,' said the paper. 'Without him, Italy is in the dark.'