Italy striker Alberto Gilardino has told his teammates to step up their game against Slovakia or they will "deserve to go home" from the FIFA World Cup™.
The Azzurri head into their final Group F match at Ellis Park on Thursday searching for their first win of the tournament after being held to draws by Paraguay and New Zealand.
"I didn't expect it to turn out like it did," said Gilardino, who has yet to score in the tournament. "But if we want to progress to the next round, we have to do much more, otherwise, it is right that we go home."
With just two points, the Azzurri must now beat Slovakia to guarantee a place in the last 16. Another draw would be sufficient if Paraguay were to beat New Zealand.
"The important thing is to look forward not back," Gilardino said. "The possibility to go through is there just as our will to win. In our first two games, we wanted to create something important but we were not able to do so. Paraguay and New Zealand didn't cause much danger to us but we still failed to make the most of our chances. The will is there but the problem is that we are lacking ideas."
The good news for Italy is that playmaker Andrea Pirlo has returned to training after missing the first two games with a muscular injury. The AC Milan midfielder could feature against Slovakia, who have not impressed at all in South Africa. Coach Marcello Lippi, meanwhile, is optimistic.
"We can still do important things in this World Cup. It's within our possibilities. We can do so much better that what we have done so far. But we have to take responsibility after two games that didn't go as we had planned. Not everything has gone well but we cannot see the glass empty because it's not the case. There is absolutely no crisis in our team," he said.