Donadoni faces stiff criticism

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:46 AM ET

ZURICH, Switzerland -- For a man who has gone through hell the last three days and whose future as coach of Italy's soccer team is now on a game-by-game basis, Roberto Donadoni looked particularly calm.

The day before his game against Romania, a game Italians have to win to remain in Euro 2008, Donadoni sparred with Italian reporters, joked about spies being in the stands and tried to soften the atmosphere of fear that many in Italy are attaching to this game.

"To be afraid is to be human," he said. "If you aren't afraid in a game like this, you aren't human. It's clear that this is an important game, but a little bit of fear is good. As long as that fear doesn't handcuff you."

Donadoni and his team have faced stiff criticism after the 3-0 defeat to the Netherlands in their opening Group C game. It was Italy's worst defeat in tournament play, matching the 4-1 loss to Brazil in the 1970 World Cup final in Mexico.

Donadoni said it was fine to feel upset, "but this kind of reaction has to be managed and the team had to remain focused."

The bulk of the criticism Donadoni faced was centred on his starting lineup.

Yesterday, he sat in front in a roomful of Italian reporters, all would-be coaches. When asked about the debate surrounding the lineup, he asked questions of his own.

"Debate? What debate? Debate among journalists," he said with a laugh.

He handled every question with ease and warded off repeated questions about who would play and what formation the team would use.

"The team is ready," he said.

When it was pointed out that was the same thing he said before losing to Holland, he repeated that the team was ready. He feels the same way now but warned, "there are no absolute guarantees."

"We need the best and the most from everyone," he said.

Donadoni hinted as many as "three or four" changes, but would only acknowledge the insertion of Alex Del Piero up front and Giorgio Chiellini at the back.

He was pushed about his system of naming a starting lineup only on the day of a game, with the suggestion that a change would allow players a longer time to prepare mentally for the game.

"The procedure will stay the same. I've been doing this for two years," he said. "It's silly to change everything because we lost one game 3-0. We aren't going to change everything."

Other additions might include defender Fabio Grosso and midfielder Antonio Di Natali.

As defending World Cup champs, the loss to the Dutch was a slap in the face. Playing Romania will be no easy task, especially if they play as they did against France, a 0-0 draw.

"When the selection was made, everyone talked about France, Holland, Italy, France, Holland, but Romania made it difficult for France," said Donadoni.

The Italians have to score, but Donadoni doesn't believe they have to panic if they don't succeed in the first few minutes. "We have 90 minutes at our disposal. . . . We need to show patience."

It was inevitable that the question about his future would surface. He has a two-year contract, but it is predicated on this team doing well.

"(The game) has nothing to do with me and my future," he said. "It has to do with the Italian jersey. (The players) know how important it is."


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