x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Battle of 2006 is on Italy's mind

Three years ago at the World Cup, a 1-1 draw with the Americans was the only blemish on the Azzurri's otherwise perfect run in Germany.

PRETORIA // Revenge will be the order of the day for Italy against the United States today. Three years ago at the World Cup, a 1-1 draw with the Americans was the only blemish on the Azzurri's otherwise perfect run in Germany. "This is the most important match," said Italy coach Marcello Lippi, who stepped down after the World Cup victory only to return last year. "We've got to beat the United States because if the first game goes well, then so will the following games. Whereas if it goes badly, it will be tougher for us to recover."

Lippi's line-up is likely to contain nine members of the World Cup-winning side, including Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi, whose elbow that bloodied the face of US forward Brian McBride was the lasting image of the 2006 clash. The incident cost De Rossi a four-game ban, ruling him out for most of the World Cup. The intensely physical 2006 game ended with only 19 men on the field - 10 for Italy and nine for the United States.

"The US puts all of its emphasis on a physical game and they should not be underestimated," said defender Giorgio Chiellini, who will likely anchor the Azzurri's injury-depleted defence. Captain Fabio Cannavaro is out and replacement Nicola Legrottaglie is doubtful, meaning Chiellini will be joined by the inexperienced Alessandro Gamberini in central defence. "Any time you get a chance to play Italy or another top team like the ones we will be facing is great," the US captain Carlos Bocanegra said.

"This is how you challenge yourself, and it's what you measure yourself against. These are the best teams in the world and we want to see how we rate against them. The pressure will be on them and we want to go out there and show that we can play with them." * AP USA v Italy, KO 10.30pm, ART Sport 5