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Europa League round of 16 draw

Europa League
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By ESPN Staff

Donadoni mindful of Bulgaria threat

Italy coach Roberto Donadoni believes none of the Azzurri's opponents in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup have a great football tradition, but says they are still tough teams to play.

Donadoni, whose team will be defending the World Cup won under his predecessor Marcello Lippi when qualification commences after Euro 2008, saw the champions placed alongside Bulgaria, the Republic of Ireland, Georgia, Cyprus and newcomers Montenegro in Sunday's draw in South Africa.

Donadoni said: 'Bulgaria, Ireland, Georgia and Montenegro are nations that don't have a great football tradition but they are still difficult teams.'

The Azzurri, who secured a place in next summer's Euro 2008 finals after last weekend's triumph in Scotland, have been drawn again with Georgia, who were also part of that competition's 'group of death' which saw World Cup finalists Italy and France eventually qualify.

But Donadoni believes Italy's biggest threat will come from Bulgaria.

'Bulgaria is probably the main contender for us in this group,' he said. 'Montenegro, as with all of the former Yugoslavia nations, are difficult opponents. And let's not even talk about Ireland.

'We already know Georgia, having faced them in the Euro 2008 qualifier.'