Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro says that the reigning world champions need to rediscover their traditional defensive strengths if they are to compete for honours at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
Italy begin their Group F campaign against Paraguay in Cape Town on Monday amidst much uncertainty about their recent form, particularly defensively. Cannavaro, 36, has just come off a poor season with Juventus for whom fellow Italy back-five starters Giorgio Chiellini and Gianluigi Buffon also play.
It has left many people in Italy feeling worried that the country's football team has lost its ability to keep things tight at the back, as past teams always did, employing the famous catenaccio tactic. And the captain knows that he and his team-mates will need to rediscover their roots if they are to go far here. "Defence is vital but that doesn't mean we'll stay in our own half of the pitch," he said from Italy's base just south of Pretoria.
"It means being compact. We'll never play an attacking game like Brazil, Portugal or Spain but they'll never be able to defend like us. In 2006 we had played for two years with practically the same players. This year it's different, there are new ones, there's been changes. That's normal because there's a new generation.
The men are different but as for defensive organisation we've seen that if teams are compact they can go a long way. That's something we've lost these last few years and we'll try to get it back.
"The men are different but as for defensive organisation we've seen that if teams are compact they can go a long way. That's something we've lost these last few years and we'll try to get it back.
"The coach (Marcello Lippi) is trying to work things out and he'll decide on Sunday (how we'll play). He needs to try things, that's normal. I don't yet know how we'll play but he'll find the solution."
Cannavaro not only admitted that Italy's defence isn't what it once was but also accepted that as a side they no longer have any superstars. Italy once had players of the quality of Roberto Baggio, Francesco Totti and Alessandro Del Piero in their team, but no more.
Even so, the captain believes they do have those who can make a difference. "Unfortunately Italian football doesn't have a player of this high profile and hence the coach has had to go for other options," he added.
"But a superstar is not just about technique, it's also about how a player can get his team out of certain situations in a match. And we've got players who can do that like (Antonio) Di Natale, (Vincenzo) Iaquinta or (Alberto) Gilardino.
"Of course we don't have a (Lionel) Messi, (Wayne) Rooney or Cristiano Ronaldo. But in 2006 we had great players who weren't on the top of their game, it was the group as a whole that won."