Coaching controversy

MORRIS DALLA COSTA

, Last Updated: 7:15 AM ET

Things are going to get difficult for Italian national team coach Roberto Donadoni.

Less than a month before the start of Euro '08, Donadoni hasn't received the gesture of good faith he wanted from the Italian soccer federation.

Donadoni has been in the hot seat since he took over the squad. That's to be expected when you take over a World Cup winner. But he did qualify the team for the Euro tournament. His contract expires at the end of 2008 and he was looking for an extension.

The contract discussion is overshadowing preparations for the tournament. That kind of distraction was the last thing either party wanted. Reports say that Donadoni was offered a two-year extension that was geared to the national team's performance including reaching the semi-final at Euro. It did include a substantial buyout if Donadoni was fired.

Hardly the vote of confidence he was seeking.

If that was meant to calm the waters, no one better get in a boat.

Reports say Donadoni was not impressed.

Donadoni now has to make decisions he knows will determine whether he remains Italy's coach after Euro. He'll have to decide who among a big crowd of strikers he'll select.

Luca Toni is a given. So is young Marco Borriello. But one of the key inclusions will be a striker who likely will come off the bench later in the game to give the Italians a boost.

Popular Juventus star Alessandro Del Piero is making things difficult for the Italian coach. Del Piero has found the fountain of youth this season. The almost 34-year-old is scoring goals like he's 10 years younger.

Two years ago, not many would have believed this would have been an issue. Del Piero looked like a player headed downhill on a bike with no brakes.

This year with Juventus, he's playing full games and scoring goals, 18 of them so far. Making a decision to leave Del Piero out of Euro is even more difficult because of Del Piero's popularity. Del Piero is a classy guy and the Italian media loves him.

But there's another 34-year-old who is potting big goals. Milan's Pippo Inzaghi has picked the past two months to be at his poaching best.

Inzaghi is the kind of player no one notices, until he puts the ball in the net. He's quicker than Del Piero and has a reputation for scoring big goals.

Which brings us to Antonio Cassano. Cassano has enormous potential, is much younger and stronger than the other two. He plays the game on the edge with an edge.

He would be the most dangerous selection for Donadoni and Donadoni likely will not take that risk. There are too many other safer choices.

Donadoni isn't one to tip his hand but if one can interpret recent interviews, Donadoni seems to be leaning toward Del Piero. Del Piero's advantage over Inzaghi is his ability to distribute the ball and Del Piero remains dangerous when he's standing over a free kick.

Juventus' Vincenzo Iaquinta, who was expected to be named to the Euro squad, is out with an injury, putting his tournament at risk.

MONEY IN THEIR POCKET

They may play for the honour of their country but the money isn't bad either. Euro '08 in Switzerland and Austria will have a pool of about 184 million Euros.

Each team earns (all in Euros) 7.5 million to be in the tournament with teams getting one million per win and 500,000 per tie. The eight quarter-finalists earn two million each, with the four semi-finalists three million each, the two finalists 4.5 million each and the winner earning an addition three million.


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