- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 13, 2009

IRENE, SOUTH AFRICA (AP) - Italy faces defensive problems for its Confederations Cup opener against the United States on Monday, with injured captain Fabio Cannavaro almost certainly out and replacement Nicola Legrottaglie also in doubt.

Alessandro Gamberini, an inexperienced defender, most likely will team with Giorgio Chiellini in central defense against the U.S. in Pretoria.

Cannavaro has a strained calf, and team physician Enrico Castellacci said Saturday the 34-year-old star probably will not play.

“He’s going to have a tough time recuperating by Monday, but we’re optimistic for the other games,” Castellacci said.

Legrottaglie has a muscle problem.

“We decided as a precaution that he wouldn’t train today, just work out in the gym,” Castellacci said. “Then tomorrow we’ll re-evaluate.”

If Cannavaro and Legrottaglie are unavailable, Italy will have no central defense specialist on its bench.

Cannavaro sat out a 4-3 exhibition victory over New Zealand on Wednesday. He missed the entire European Championship a year ago after injuring his ankle. Cannavaro needs three more appearances to break Paolo Maldini’s record of 126 for Italy.

After the United States, Italy plays Egypt on Thursday and closes group play against Brazil on June 21.

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