Italy coach Marcello Lippi cut a defiant figure despite the reigning world champions having endured an underwhelming start to their FIFA World Cup™ campaign.

Having drawn their opening two Group F matches - the second embarrassingly against rank outsiders New Zealand on Sunday - Italy are, like fellow fancied European contenders France, England, Germany and Spain, in very real danger of facing the ignominy of a group stage elimination.

Lippi, though, adopted an attitude that all was going along perfectly well. "There's no crisis right here, there's no crisis in the team and there's no need for a crisis," he replied.

"I don't want to talk about the problems of the team, the problems are on the pitch," he snapped.

From one point of view we've had two negative matches, but from another point of view, they weren't so bad.

Marcello Lippi, Italy coach

"I talk about problems with the team, not with you (the press). We're struggling to create goalscoring chances, these are the problems.

"But New Zealand only had two shots on goal and that's positive. Having taken the lead after only five minutes they brought everyone back. Paraguay, who are a very good team, only got near our goal twice, that's not so negative."

Before Monday's training, Lippi led his players to the far side of the pitch, out of sight from the watching press, and got them to sit down behind an advertising hoarding.

"That was the second time I'd spoken with them, the first time was last night," he said. "It was right to have this talk, it was right to take responsibility. From one point of view we've had two negative matches, but from another point of view, they weren't so bad.

"We mustn't fall into the traps from outside, there's one at every step and even in the dressing room many walls have ears."

But there was a word of warning to his players as well. "I read this morning some quotes from [England coach Fabio] Capello that his players are afraid of the World Cup. Well I don't want that to happen to us," he said.

"We haven't done what we're capable of but we can still kick-start our World Cup, anything can still happen."

"There's a feeling of disappointment, when a team plays with heart and desire, if you don't get a result your disappointment is relative to the amount of effort you put into it."

Italy need to beat Slovakia in Johannesburg on Thursday to be sure of progressing, although they could also advance with a draw. Slovakia have to win or they go home.