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USA gets rematch against the world champion
by Ridge Mahoney, June 15th, 2009 7AM



[CONFEDERATIONS CUP] Nearly three years after they tied, 1-1, at the 2006 World Cup, the USA and Italy meet again Monday to open their schedules at the 2009 Confederations Cup (2:25 p.m. ET, ESPN, TeleFutura). Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey, DaMarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan are the only U.S. holdovers who played in that match against the eventual world champion, though keeper Tim Howard watched from the bench. The Americans are missing several regulars for the Confederations Cup, including right back Steve Cherundolo and Pablo Mastroeni, who also played in the Kaiserslautern match that featured an own goal, an equalizer by Alberto Gilardino, and three players sent off.

Since going out on penalty kicks to eventual champion Spain in the Euro 2008 quarterfinals, Italy has powered to the top of its 2010 World Cup qualifying group. The Italians have won four games and tied two, including a 1-1 home deadlock with Ireland in its last match on April 1 that it played with 10 men for nearly the entire match. Gianpaolo Pazzini was sent off in the third minute, yet seven minutes later Vincenzo Iaquinta scored and Italy held out until Robbie Keane's equalizer in the 88th minute.

"My players played like a unit and when they need to fight and suffer they know how to do it," said Italy coach Marcello Lippi after the tie in Bari. "I'm satisfied with what we've done in these last few days and I told them we've taken a small step forward in terms of qualification."

The Italians have not brought their full squad for this tournament, though there are nine returnees from the 1-1 match they played with the USA at the 2006 World Cup in Kaiserslautern. Alberto Aquilani, Antonio di Natale and Daniele del Rossi have each scored two of Italy's nine qualifying goals, but none of them is on the Confederations Cup roster.

Guiseppe Rossi is on the Italian roster, and the New Jersey-born striker has been a natural focal point in the buildup to this match. Before the squad left Europe for the Confederations Cup, Rossi scored his first full international goal and set up another as Italy beat Northern Ireland, 3-0, in Pisa.

Rossi lined up on the right wing of Italy's front line and scored from outside the box with a well-hit shot in the 20th minute and threaded a through ball for Pasquale Foggia to notch Italy's third goal early in the second half.

Iaquinta and Gilardino each scored two goals last Wednesday as Italy rallied to beat New Zealand, 4-3, at Pretoria during a downpour two days after the team arrived in South Africa. Captain Fabio Cannavaro missed that match with a calf strain and is not expected to play against the USA.
Brazil and Egypt, the other two teams in Group B, play a few hours before the Italians and Americans kick off.

"The most important match is the first one; we need to make sure that we beat our first opponents," said Lippi to "If the first game goes well, then logically the others will follow suit. If it goes badly, it will be more difficult for us to regain our momentum."


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