Italy 3 Cyprus 2 PARMA: Italy coach Marcello Lippi said the work begins now for the team’s defence of their title after finishing their World Cup qualification campaign with an unimpressive 3-2 win over Cyprus.Italy finished group eight undefeated after Alberto Gilardino scored a hat-trick in the last 12 minutes to turn a 2-0 deficit into an unlikely victory. It means the world champions will set off on the long preparation journey ahead of June’s trip to South Africa in buoyant mood.After changing all 11 players from those who clinched qualification – thanks to a last-minute equaliser from substitute Gilardino – with a 2-2 draw in Dublin on Saturday, Lippi said there was nothing to be learned from this game.”I don’t care about the result. if I had, I wouldn’t have changed 11 players,” he said. ”I’m not disappointed. I will evaluate this match. We have six or seven months to work and we started tonight. I can’t make a technical assessment because we changed 11 players, we knew we would have problems but I wanted to change things around because I wanted these players to experience the atmosphere.”Cyprus dominated and they played well, but they lost and that’s the reality.”Despite the thrilling nature of Italy’s victory, they were poor for most of the game – certainly up until the last 12 minutes, and they were booed off at half-time. Some fans also shouted at players to work harder, something which enraged Lippi. ”I’m fuming, I’ve already said it on the pitch, some of those fans forgot this team are world champions,” he said. ”That means we went to the World Cup and finished ahead of everyone else.”We’ve qualified for the next tournament after a great match [against Ireland] and now we will go and defend our title. And for those people who during the game told us to go to work, they should be ashamed because we’re the world champions.”What angers me is the lack of respect for these incredible players who play with great heart and who despite the problems went on to win. To those who said go to work, I say, ‘You go to work’.”Star-studded Portugal kept their World Cup hopes alive by booking a play-off place with a 4-0 win over Malta. Portugal, without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo, defeated Malta 4-0 in Guimaraes with Nani, Simao, Miguel and Edinho making sure of second spot behind group one winners Denmark, but ahead of Sweden, who missed out on qualification despite beating Albania 4-1.Portugal had endured a terrible start to their campaign, winning just two of their first seven games and at one stage registering three back-to-back goalless draws. Wednesday’s win meant they joined seven other sides in the draw for the two-legged European play-offs in November.”For sure some points lost at home made life difficult for us but the important thing is that we made it and now we have to prepare for these two finals,” said Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz.England, who had already wrapped up group six, recovered from Saturday’s 1-0 defeat in Ukraine to beat Belarus 3-0 at Wembley with Peter Crouch (two) and Shaun Wright-Phillips grabbing the goals. Agencies
Nanjing Night Net

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