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Pressure grows on Lippi as world champion flops

ITALY coach Marcello Lippi faced calls for a squad clearout if it is to have any designs on defending its World Cup title next year following Sunday's embarrassing exit from the Confederations Cup.

Italy could have advanced by scoring just one goal against Brazil, but Lippi's squad hardly threatened against a rampaging Brazil. Lippi was immediately pressured to bring more younger players into the squad.

"Unfortunately we're out and we're very upset," he said after the match. "But people on the outside should stay calm about pushing for younger players, because you need a certain type of experience in these types of games.

"There are younger players, but let them mature gradually. These are the best players in Italy. Maybe they're a little out of form, but these are the best players and I'm not changing them."

It's the second consecutive major tournament from which Italy has been eliminated early after its title in Germany three years ago. At last year's European Championship, Italy lost to eventual champion Spain on penalties in the quarterfinals.

"It's not the end of the world. It's better that this happened now rather than at the World Cup finals," Italian football federation president Giancarlo Abete said.

"It would be a mistake to prosecute the players that gave us the World Cup. It's not an age problem for a lot of them, but rather a question of physical condition."

Lippi returned after Euro 2008 and brought the core of his World Cup squad back with him. Twelve members of the 23-man squad here took part in the triumph in Berlin.

The only bright spot for Italy at this tournament was a laborious 3-1 win over the United States, when Italy scored all three of its goals after the Americans were reduced to 10 men.

Giuseppe Rossi came off the bench and scored twice against the US and earned a start as center forward against Egypt, but Lippi's experimental attack with Vincenzo Iaquinta and Fabio Quagliarella misfired.

Lippi went back to Luca Toni at center forward against Brazil, but, at 32, Toni concluded his second consecutive major tournament without a goal. Alberto Gilardino appeared in better form than Toni, but Lippi has tended to prefer the 1.92-meter Bayern Munich forward.

"You can't just throw a young player into a game like this," Lippi said.

"You need to bring younger players along gradually. If hadn't hurt his knee the other day, (18-year-old defender Davide) Santon would have definitely played tonight."


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