By Kadira Malkoc
Italy face a tricky friendly against Turkey on Wednesday in Pescara with coach Giovanni Trapattoni aiming to get a positive result to build on the vote of confidence handed to him by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) on 4 November.
After a disappointing FIFA World Cup, when the Azzurri were eliminated by the Korean Republic, Italy have made a poor start to their UEFA EURO 2004™ qualifying campaign, beating Azerbaijan but drawing at home against Yugoslavia and losing in Wales.
After that defeat the coach received the backing of the FIGC, but another poor performance against Turkey could raise the pressure. "The match against Turkey is a friendly match, but obviously it is a very important one because Turkey are a team who finished third in the World Cup and we want to do our best," said FIGC vice-president Giancarlo Abete. "We will obviously have to look at things as they happen."
Trapattoni is trying to bring fresh talent into the squad for Wednesday's friendly, giving a chance to several players who are performing well with smaller clubs, including three from AC Chievo Verona - defender Nicola Legrottaglie, and midfield players Simone Perrotta and Eugenio Corini, although the latter will miss out through injury.
Joy for Di Natale
Another new face in the Azzurri squad is Empoli FC's 25-year-old forward Antonio Di Natale, who is currently the leading scorer in Serie A with eight goals. "I don't know if I will be called up for more important matches," said Di Natale. "
At the moment I just want to enjoy these three days wearing the Azzurri shirt. I will continue to work hard with my club and try to convince Trapattoni that he can count on me in the future."
Turkey have travelled to Pescara without veteran striker Hakan Sükür and Abdullah Ercan. Coach Senol Günes also left out Ümit Davala and Hakan Ünsal, and while he is going to give some of Turkey's fringe players a run-out against Italy, he was keen to remind them that this was no exhibition game.
"Players who get the chance to play in the Italy match have to be extra careful," he said. "The ones who face problems concentrating on the game will gain negative points in my eyes. I nearly called up a regular squad but I advise all the talented uncapped players to work really hard to get into the squad. It is hard to get in but once they are in it is harder to be left out."
Günes also signalled that he might call up one or two players from Turkey's Under-21 squad after their match on Tuesday. "We want to play strong sides like Italy to see our weak points before the crucial England match," he said. "While playing against weaker teams we experience problems concentrating on the match. The quality of our football will be more important than the result for me at the Italy match."
'We have to beat them'
However, while Günes is aiming to get a better idea of what his side is capable from the friendly game, his players are dreaming primarily of victory on Italian soil. "Italy are a strong team and this is a serious preparation game," said Fenerbahçe SK defender Fatih Akyel. "Therefore we have to beat them."
New year prospects
Italy will resume their Group 9 campaign at home against Finland on 12 February, while Turkey, who head qualifying Group 7 with maximum points from their first three games, travel to England on 2 April.
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