Italy needs one point against Slovenia to qualify

Italy needs only a draw at home against Slovenia on Saturday to qualify for the World Cup finals.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:49 IST
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Italy needs only a draw at home against Slovenia on Saturday to qualify for the World Cup finals. The Italian federation (FIGC) is already looking ahead, launching an initiative to bring more fans to the tournament in Germany next year and cancel memories of a first-round exit at Euro 2004, when Italian fans largely were outnumbered by supporters of their three opponents - Sweden, Denmark and Bulgaria. One player who has his focus in place in Angelo Peruzzi, the 35-year-old goalkeeper who likely will get the starting nod with Gianluigi Buffon out following shoulder surgery. "We already lost in Slovenia against them so it certainly won't be an easy game," said Peruzzi, who made his Azzurri debut 10 years ago when Arrigo Sacchi coached Italy. Italy leads points tally Slovenia beat Italy 1-0 on an 82nd-minute goal by Bostjan Cesar last October. "It's their last chance to earn a place at the World Cup and we can't commit the error of going out and satisfying ourselves with that one point," Peruzzi said. "We have to do everything we can to win." With 17 points, Italy has a solid lead atop Group 5 of European qualifying. Norway and Slovenia are tied for second with 12 points each. In case Italy is beaten by Slovenia, it should face an even easier home game against last-place Moldova four days later. All eyes on Toni Slovenia hosts fourth-place Scotland in its final qualifier. Peruzzi identified striker Luca Toni as Italy's player to watch for Saturday's game in Palermo. After scoring 50 goals for Palermo over the past two seasons, Toni moved to Fiorentina and has a league-leading six already through six matches this season. "He's in great form and in front of his former fans he could be decisive," Peruzzi said. Toni should be joined in attack by Francesco Totti. Coach Marcello Lippi's third striker will be chosen from among Alberto Gilardino, Alessandro Del Piero, Christian Vieri and Vincenzo Iaquinta. Antonio Cassano was left off the team again due to his continued troubles at AS Roma. Focus on fans Meanwhile, FIGC president Franco Carraro is looking for ways to get more blue-clad fans to follow Italy and avoid a repeat of the scene in Portugal last year. "Germany is much closer to Italy than Portugal and we would like it if the Azzurri always feel like they're at home, helped by their fans," Carraro said. "We would like it if the only time they feel it's an away game is if they play the hosts, Germany." Before Germany, however, Italy needs a point against Slovenia. (AP)