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Youth dominance yet to produce

By ESPN Staff

Lippi plays down concerns over Italy's poor form

Italy coach Marcello Lippi has told Azzurri fans not to be alarmed by his team's unimpressive performances of late.

The Italians go into Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria in Turin having struggled in front of goal in their last four games.

It was two own-goals from Georgia captain Kakha Kaladze, in fact, that handed the world champions a 2-0 victory on Saturday in Tbilisi.

"This is our story,'' said Lippi. "In qualifying we have never shined. There have been better games than others. But we, just like other national teams, have always been a team of finals. Our only thoughts should be on going to the World Cup, then in those 30-40 days there, everything will be different.''

The win over Georgia kept the Italians on top of Group Eight with a one-point advantage over the Republic of Ireland and with a game in hand.

The manner of Italy's five victories and two draws in their seven games, however, has led to criticism in the media and from the fans.

"But in the international scene, it's like this,'' said Lippi. "Look at France. They had fallen to the fourth position in their group.''

Lippi has acknowledged that the Italians are running a little short on self-belief.

"There is still little confidence in what we know we are able to do,'' he said. "Against Georgia, it wasn't a question of fear. We just didn't have the necessary confidence to impose our play.''

The World Cup-winning coach has not ruled out changing his formation for Wednesday's home qualifier.

"The 4-4-2 has not disappointed me,'' said Lippi. "It could be that I will use it again but maybe I change it.''

The good news for Lippi is the return of Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi, who missed the clash in Georgia through suspension.

Fabio Quagliarella is doubtful after sustaining a knock on his right knee on Saturday.


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