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Monday, 17 June, 2002, 17:04 GMT 18:04 UK
Home-from-home comforts
The Italians will be given quite a welcome
The Italians will be given quite a welcome in Daejon

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Italy's pampered squad want for nothing at their sumptuous new retreat near Choonan-Si, two hours drive south of Seoul in South Korea.

But the equally pampered press pack - bussed over each day for news conferences from Onyang some 40 minutes to the north west - are complaining abut its remoteness.

Not too remote though for Cristiano Doni's Brescia team-mate Simone del Nero.

He found his way there, and brazenly strolled past security into a closed training session accompanied by his and Doni's tight-jeaned girlfriends.

Francesco Totti and Paolo Maldini take a break in training
Totti and Maldini are not seeing eye-to-eye
So much for Giovanni Trapattoni's sex ban.

As for Francesco Totti, he appears not to have even noticed the squad have transferred from Sendai.

"It's all the same," he explained. "We're always inside the hotel, or we are training.

"We never get out, so we never see anything. We're here in 'retreat', so that's how it is."

Rumours of him having a training ground confrontation with captain Paolo Maldini were cold-watered.

However, he was distinctly non-plussed when a visiting Australian film crew asked him for his thoughts on "il capitano" breaking the national record for World Cup apearances.

Amused

Back at the press base, where the 60-strong media pack have to suffer saunas, open-air natural hot springs, and an underground disco, the antics of the tiny but dedicated British contingent are gradually endearing themselves to the Italian media.

Last week it was a rendition of "Return to Sendai" mocking the chances of "gli azzurri" making it back to Japan for the final.

Vincenzo Montella celebrates a
Montella will be desperate to perform his own routine
This week one Italian-based British reporter amused his counterparts by launching himself from the disco stage to steam around the dance floor, arms outstretched, imitating the goalscoring celebrations of Vincenzo Montella.

Two Italian photographers joined the Lancashire squadron leader much to the amusement of all concerned.

Meanwhile, with Tuesday's big match against hosts South Korea looming the Italian FA have launched an official complaint to Fifa following the pre-match training session at the Daejon stadium.

They spotted official preparations going on in the empty stands for seat placards to choreograph giant messages reading: "We'll do it again, just like in 66", referring to the shock 1-0 defeat of Italy at the World Cup.

No mention was made of the fact that the famous victory belonged to North, not South, Korea.

As tensions rise ahead of the game, worries are growing over Italy's defence being ravaged by injury and suspension.

A squad spin doctor tried to talk up Alessandro Nesta's chances of playing.

But as he carefully told reporters that Nesta's condition was "getting better", someone in the press hall blurted out the awful truth:

"Nesta's foot is really swollen. It's so bad that he can't even get a training shoe on."

Thank-you Francesco...


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