- The Washington Times - Monday, June 15, 2009

PRETORIA, South Africa | The only bright spot for the United States at an otherwise dismal 2006 World Cup was a 1-1 tie with Italy.

The Americans exited after the first round. The Azzurri went on to win every other match and take the title for the fourth time.

They meet again Monday at the Confederations Cup, a warmup for next year’s World Cup in South Africa.

“Italy is going to be favored,” U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra said. “The pressure will be on them, and we want to go out there and show that we can play with them and get a good result.”

Coming at the midpoint of the final round of World Cup qualifying, the eight-nation event is a challenge for the United States. After playing the Azzurri, the Americans face South American champion Brazil on Thursday and African champion Egypt on Sunday.

“This is the most important match,” said Italy coach Marcello Lippi, who quit after the World Cup, then replaced Roberto Donadoni after last year’s European Championship. “We’ve got to beat the United States because if the first game goes well, then so will the following games.”

Lippi’s starting lineup likely will contain nine members of the World Cup team. Among them is midfielder Daniele De Rossi, who bloodied the face of U.S. forward Brian McBride with his elbow in the lasting image of that game at Kaiserslautern in 2006.

De Rossi drew a four-game ban, ruling him out for most of the World Cup. The physical match ended with only 19 men on the field - 10 for Italy, nine for the United States.

“That match was a very memorable match to be a part of. I think all the players and people in the stadium will never forget it,” U.S. forward Landon Donovan said. “This will be a different game, but Italy is a team we know well. There won’t be any surprises.”

The United States will be without four injured players who didn’t make the trip: defenders Steve Cherundolo and Frankie Hejduk, midfielder Maurice Edu and forward Brian Ching. Bocanegra is nicked up and could be replaced by Jay DeMerit.

Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro is out with an ailing right calf, and replacement Nicola Legrottaglie is doubtful because of a leg muscle problem.

“The U.S. puts all of its emphasis on a physical game, and they should not be underestimated,” said defender Giorgio Chiellini, who likely will anchor the Azzurri’s injury-depleted defense.

The teams have met just six times, with Italy winning 7-1 at the 1934 World Cup and 1-0 at the 1990 World Cup. Both of those matches were in Rome.

“We have our work cut out for us. We didn’t get out of our group last time, and obviously that’s the goal,” U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “We’re going to certainly have to focus on Italy and not look too far forward.”

Howard was referring to the 2003 Confederations Cup in France, where the U.S. lost to Turkey and Brazil, then tied Cameroon.

This is the first Confederations Cup for Italy and the fourth for the United States, which finished third at Saudi Arabia in 1992 and third again at Mexico in 1999.

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