RENE, June 15 – Coach Marcello Lippi was calm and confident on Tuesday despite reigning champions Italy's failure to win their opening match of the World Cup.
Daniele De Rossi scored a second half equaliser to earn the Azzurri a 1-1 draw against an ultra-defensive Paraguay in Cape Town on Monday night.
And with games against New Zealand and Slovenia to come, Lippi insisted that he was satisfied with their start.
"I have never seen a big team come to a World Cup Finals and start at 100 percent. Teams need to grow throughout a tournament and they do that through their results," he said at Italy’s Casa Azzurri base here, just to the south of Pretoria.
"We’re not at 100 percent but that’s the same for everyone. I’m very satisfied with the progress the team is making.
"I would say 70 percent of the players are there and when the rest improve physically and tactically we’ll score goals and create more chances.
"There’s nothing to worry about."
He was also far from disappointed at Italy’s inability to break down Paraguay’s stubborn backline more than once.
"They’re a good team and they only moved over the half way line four times in the whole match," he added.
"I don’t think we showed them too much respect, I think we gave them just the right amount, maybe it was them who showed us too much given the waiting game they played."
Lippi may have had a point about the big teams as England and France also failed to win their openers, but that was not the case for Germany, Argentina and the Netherlands.
"For every team it depends on your opponents. Germany had the best start but Australia are probably less strong and less organised than for example the USA (England’s opponents).
"Argentina played well and showed what they are capable of but Nigeria had their chances too, even if they could have conceded a second (they lost 1-0)."
After a glut of draws, some have suggested that this World Cup is short on quality, but Lippi said it is too early to say.
"As for whether or not it’s a mediocre tournament we’ll have to wait and see, we haven’t even finished the first round of group games yet," he said before explaining that some people and teams play their way into form.
"In 1982 Paolo Rossi didn’t even touch the ball in the first three games but our coach at the time, Enzo Bearzot knew that to do something special in the tournament he needed this player to explode and he was waiting for that.
"Italy had three draws in the group stages, Rossi was in dreadful form but then he exploded in the fifth game with a hat-trick against Brazil.
"He became the key man for Italy."
Despite Lippi’s assertions, the Italian media is still pretty unconvinced about the team’s hopes of retaining their crown, but the Italy boss insists it’s a different atmosphere within his camp.
"There’s a big difference between the belief in the dressing-room and that here (among the press corps), the lads have great self belief," he stressed.
First choice goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was forced off at half-time against Paraguay with a back problem but Lippi said he had no update to give on the player’s physical shape as the Juventus star was still sleeping at the time of the press conference.