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Sunday, 9 June, 2002, 18:34 GMT 19:34 UK
Pressure grows on Trapattoni
Italian coach Giovanni Trapattoni looks despondent during Italy's 2-1 defeat to Croatia
The Croatia match was frustrating for Trapattoni

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There are clear signs of growing tension in Italy's World Cup camp.

The laid back atmosphere that characterised the squad's early-tournament preparation disappeared overnight following Saturday's shock 2-1 Group G defeat at the hands of Croatia.

Claims of an on-the-pitch row between Inter Milan's Marco Materazzi and captain Paolo Maldini of AC Milan were quickly denied.

But coach Giovanni Trapattoni looked tired and nervous facing the Italian media after a Sunday evening practice match.

'Trap', as he is affectionately known, commands widespread respect in Italian football.

Open Quote
Your formation isn't what determines whether you win or not. Look at France, they played with three strikers yet they lost
Close Quote
Giovanni Trapattoni

And the often hyper-critical Italian sports media held off from launching one of their notorious witch hunts - even though Italy need a win next Thursday against Mexico to be certain of qualifying for the second phase.

Against Croatia, Trapattoni changed his mind about fielding Filippo Inzaghi in a 4-3-1-2 formation against Croatia.

Concerns over the fitness of the defensive line forced a re-think after the Italian coach received a late tip off from a journalist that Croatia were planning a three-man attacking line.

Careful to avoid discontent among his star-studded contingent of attackers, the wily Trapattoni personally visited Inzaghi in his room on the morning of the match to break the news.

The Milan forward came on for just the final 11 minutes.

Italy's midfield lacks creative players and is identified as the relative weak point of the side.

Trappatoni revealed that he would have sacrificed a striker to include another midfielder in his tournament squad if one were available.

"But Ambrosini [AC Milan] wasn't ready after injury and Albertini [AC Milan] was injured," he shrugged.

Expecting a rough ride from the media he initially over-reacted when questioned over his tactical choices in Italy's second game of the tournament.

"There is no one formation that wins games," he said.

"Look, we played with that formation in the first game and won. Then yesterday we played with the same shape and lost.

"Your formation isn't what determines whether you win or not. Look at France, they played with three strikers yet they lost."

With Franceco Totti turning in a below par performance, and a fitness worry still hanging over Alessandro Nesta, the next few days are likely to see tension rise further in the 'Azzurri' camp.

Things were not helped by Luigi Di Biaggio's bizarre neck injury, sustained by sleeping with the hotel air-conditioning on too strong.

Tempers have already flared among journalists following the team, with a brief fist fight breaking out at the post-match news conference.


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GROUP G
  P GD PTS
MEXICO 3 +2 7
ITALY 3 +1 4
CROATIA 3 -1 3
ECUADOR 3 -2 3

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