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Italians peaking at right time

Team focus: The European title-holders are coming into form before their bid to take the world crown.

Italy will be looking to the backbone of the side that made them the reigning European champions when they travel to Chinese Taipei to try and claim the world crown.

Key duo
The likes of prolific forward Adriano Foglia, world player of the year in 2003, and captain Salvatore Zaffiro have come into form at just the right time for coach Alessandro Nuccorini. The squad warmed up for the finals with a double header against Slovenia on 4 and 6 November. The Azzurri lost the first game 3-2, with Vinicius Bacaro, the hero of the 2003 UEFA European Futsal Championship final, hitting the bar in the dying minutes and Slovenia surging forward to score the winner on the counterattack.

All change
However, Italy were back on form, with the return of several experienced faces, two days later when they emerged 7-0 winners. "It was a completely different side," said coach Nuccorini. "We played much better and the result was a clear consequence of this. We played with an extremely high tempo and we were very aggressive in defence." It is precisely this approach which will serve the Italians well in Asia.

Upbeat mood
Although all the teams taking part in the finals should be respected, the Italians will feel every confidence of being able to overcome their Group C rivals Japan, Paraguay and the United States. The squad, who were training in Prato prior to their departure for the Far East, have been able to foster a good team spirit, having beaten Croatia 5-1 prior to the Slovenia matches. Understandably, Nuccorini is in upbeat mood and, although his nation won the European title in 2003, he realised then that the team would not achieve full potential for a couple of years.

Surprise package
Of his main men, Nuccorini said: "Foglia is a very important player for us. He did not have a great period of form recently but now he's improved and I expect him to improve even more for the World Championship. The condition of captain Zaffiro is also growing day after day. He made terrific passes against Slovenia." However, newcomer Zanetti is the man that Nuccorini believed could be the surprise package for his team.

Italy squad
Gianfranco Angelini, Alexandre Feller, Pellegrini, Salvatore Zaffiro, Grana, Montovaneli, Edgar Bertoni, Andre Vicentini, Fabiano, Rodrigo Bertoni, Vinicius Bacaro, Adriano Foglia, Morgado, Sandro Zanetti.