16 agosto 2006

Squadra Azzurra

Update on the world's best players!

Italy's World Cup players still enjoying summer break

By ANDREW ROBERTS, Associated Press Writer
August 16, 2006

LIVORNO, Italy (AP) -- Summer break probably never felt so good for Italy's World Cup players, and it isn't over yet.

Despite international soccer's return this week, almost all the players who helped Italy win its fourth World Cup title will still be enjoying the warm weather before rejoining the squad for 2008 European Championship qualifying early next month.

"It was an incredible year, but also tiresome," Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro said. "The joy of winning the World Cup certainly made the dedication worthwhile, though."

Several players, including Cannavaro, Andrea Pirlo and Fabio Grosso, spent some of their vacation on the island of Sardinia, the haunt of many of Italy's rich and famous.

Marcello Lippi, who stepped down as coach after the tournament in Germany, went to Valencia, Spain, to mull over his next challenge. He spent most of his time fishing on the Mediterranean, however.

Others traveled around the globe, some to Australia, others to French Polynesia. Mauro Camoranesi, born in Argentina, returned to the South American country to spend his free time.

One player, defender Marco Materazzi, traveled to the Maldives, his usual vacation spot. But the man who was on the receiving end of Zinedine Zidane's head butt won't have to worry about returning to Italy's camp soon -- he's been suspended for the first two matches of the qualifying campaign for what he said to Zidane.

While most of the players had time to relish their run to the title in Germany just a few weeks ago, they also had to worry about their professional future.

A match-fixing scandal in Italy forced the demotion of Juventus, and penalties to AC Milan, Lazio and Fiorentina. Only Milan will be allowed to play in European competitions this season.

All four teams will start the season with negative points.

Cannavaro and Juventus teammate Gianluca Zambrotta both decided to leave Italy for Spain. Cannavaro will play for Real Madrid under former Juventus coach Fabio Capello, while Zambrotta will take the field for FC Barcelona.

Cannavaro is already ready to hoist another cup: the Champions League.

"I'm 33 years old and I've only gone so far as the semifinals," Cannavaro said. "My goal is to play the final with Real Madrid and win the cup."

Camoranesi called his agent to say he didn't want to play in Serie B, but he apparently changed his mind.

Both Alessandro Del Piero and Gianluigi Buffon committed themselves to Juventus before the team was demoted. Del Piero, mostly used as a substitute last season, should get more playing time this year.

Fiorentina striker Luca Toni, the league's leading scorer last season, also considered leaving his team, but decided to stay in Florence after speaking to team owner Diego Della Valle on his return from Thailand.

Lazio also managed to hold on to goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi and defender Massimo Oddo.

AC Milan, playing in the Champions League and docked only eight points for next season, kept Pirlo, Alessandro Nesta, Gennaro Gattuso, Alberto Gilardino and Filippo Inzaghi.

Grosso moved from Palermo to Inter Milan before the World Cup started.


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