Italy coach Marcello Lippi said the work begins now for the team's defence of their title after finishing their 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualification campaign with an unimpressive 3-2 win over Cyprus. Italy finished Group 8 undefeated after Alberto Gilardino scored a hat-trick in the last 12 minutes to turn around a 2-0 deficit into an unlikely victory.
It means the world champions will set off on the long preparation journey ahead of June's trip to South Africa in buoyant mood. But after changing all 11 players from those who clinched qualification -- thanks to a last minute equaliser from substitute Gilardino -- with a 2-2 draw in Dublin on Saturday, Lippi said there was nothing to be learned from this game.
"I don't care about the result. If I had I wouldn't have changed 11 players," he said. "I'm not disappointed, I will evaluate this match. We have six or seven months to work and we started tonight.
"I can't make a technical assessment because we changed 11 players. We knew we would have problems, but I wanted to change things around because I wanted these players to experience the atmosphere," said Lippi.
"Cyprus dominated and they played well, but they lost and that's the reality. We can't get anything out of this game, but the door is still open for anyone [to make the World Cup squad]."
We knew we would have problems, but I wanted to change things around because I wanted these players to experience the atmosphere.
Despite the thrilling nature of Italy's victory, they were poor for most of the game, certainly up until the last 12 minutes, and they were booed off at half-time. Some fans also shouted at players to work harder, something which enraged Lippi.
"I'm fuming. I've already said it on the pitch, some of those fans forgot this team is world champions," he said. "That means we went to the World Cup and finished ahead of everyone else.
"We've qualified for the next tournament after a great match [against Ireland] and now we will go and defend our title. We celebrated after that match and I promised the players I would make changes and we changed 11 players, something which I've never done before.
"We knew we could have some problems as this is a team that on Saturday scored four against Bulgaria," said Lippi. "And for those people who during the game told us to go to work, they should be ashamed because we're the world champions.
"What angers me is the lack of respect for these incredible players who play with great heart and who despite the problems went on to win."