Italy need to raise game, admits Lippi

ITALY coach Marcello Lippi admits the Azzurri need to raise their game after only scraping past Cyprus in their opening World Cup qualifier on Saturday.

Antonio di Natale scored both goals as the world champions laboured to victory in Larnaca, netting in the eighth minute before snatching all three points in stoppage time after Stathis Aloneftis had equalised on the half-hour mark.

Lippi, the 2006 World Cup-winning coach who returned to the hotseat to replace Roberto Donadoni after Euro 2008, expects an improved showing from his team against Georgia tonight.

“We need to grow,” he said. “In a month’s time we will have more weapons, including better physical condition.

“We will have to suffer in certain qualifying games. This has already happened to us and will happen again.

“But the important thing is to grow as a team and that we qualify for the World Cup.”

Lippi will have to overcome the loss of Gennaro Gattuso (hand/wrist), Alessandro Gamberini (shoulder) and Fabio Grosso (rib).

All three players sustained injuries while on international duty at the weekend and will each be sidelined for around a month. AC Milan have backed Gattuso to continue playing however.

He fractured his hand in training on Sunday, a day after the win over Cyprus, and said after surgery that he would “make war” with anyone who tried to stop him playing for Italy again in the future.

Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani moved quickly to assure Gattuso he has nothing to worry about.

“No one at Milan has even considered denying Gattuso or any other player joining the national team.

“Our rapport with Italy’s national team is very good.”

Meanwhile, Georgia coach Hector Cuper will tell his players to keep a close eye on AC Milan playmaker Andrea Pirlo.

“Our number one danger is Pirlo,” said the former Internazionale coach.“Andrea is the soul of the Azzurri team, he invents attacking moves every time he has possession.”

Cuper revealed he will give Giorgi Loria another chance between the sticks despite his error to allow Glenn Whelan’s weak shot to beat him as Republic of Ireland ran out 2-1 winners in Mainz at the weekend.

“He made a serious mistake on Whelan’s goal,” Cuper said. “Loria is not (Gianluigi) Buffon but he deserves to be granted another chance.”

Georgia will be without defender Zurab Khizanishvili due to a knee injury.

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