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Pressure mounts on beleaguered Trapattoni

© Reuters 2002

ROME, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Calls for Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni to resign reached fever pitch after his side's 2-1 defeat by Wales in a Euro 2004 qualifier on Wednesday.

"Goodbye Trap," ran the headline in sports daily Corriere dello Sport on Thursday. The editor of the Corriere, Xavier Jacobelli, has been one of Trapattoni's most vociferous critics since Italy's ignominious FIFA World Cup" defeat by South Korea in June.

Jacobelli's editorial was characteristically combative.

"Considering the crisis of play and ideas Trapattoni's team finds itself in, the only thing that counted yesterday evening was to emerge unscathed from the Millennium Stadium," he wrote. "Instead it was another disaster."

Even the usually moderate La Gazzetta dello Sport joined in the chorus for the removal of the 63-year-old coach as it imagined a brighter future for the national team.

"Trapattoni's resignation would be welcome, but there's no sign it'll happen," it said. "The image of a washed-out Italy remains, a team that from Naples to Cardiff is capable of scoring only thanks to Del Piero's free kicks and other people's deviations."

Italy's record in 2002 is poor. Out of 10 matches, they have won just two, against lowly Ecuador and Azerbaijan. They have lost five times, against the Czech Republic, Croatia, South Korea, Slovenia and now Wales.

After three Euro 2004 qualifying matches they have amassed just four points, putting them in third place in group nine, two points behinds leaders Wales despite having played a game more.

Judging by Wales's form and the strength of the second-placed Yugoslavian team, there is a danger that Italy could miss the European Championships, as they did in 1984 and 1992.

Trapattoni has been held chiefly responsible for Italy's poor performances.

After Wednesday's match, however, he told reporters that he had never considered resigning.

"Despite what anyone has written or said, it has never crossed my mind to leave (my job)," he said, underlining the absences of key players like playmaker Francesco Totti, strikers Christian Vieri and Filippo Inzaghi, and defender Francesco Coco.

"This is Italy right now," he added - the exact comment he made immediately after Saturday's 1-1 draw with Yugoslavia.

"This evening the best available Italian players were on the pitch. Naturally I assume my responsibilities, because when you lose it's also the coach's fault.

"I reaffirm that I'm not even thinking remotely of leaving my post, but it's not me that decides on these things."

For now, the people who do decide on these things look unlikely to let Trapattoni go. Before the match the president of Federcalcio (the Italian FA), Franco Carraro, gave a public vote of confidence to his manager.

Afterwards, Carraro's vice, Giancarlo Abete, sat next to Trapattoni in the interview room and tried to end speculation that the coach would be sacked.

"The pressure from the press and the people is justified," he told reporters. "There's been a loss of competitiveness, even against opponents who we'd usually beat. The situation is complex.

"There is time to recover, but we can't allow any more mistakes in the remaining five matches."

Trapattoni is safe - at least for now. He has plenty of time to regroup, with Italy's next qualifier - at home to Finland - more than five months away.

By then, he will hope to have his injured players back.

Reports provided by

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