Unemployed Cannavaro leads champions Italy to South Africa

Rome, May 31 (DPA) Without a job and with the end of a long, brilliant career looming, Fabio Cannavaro showed optimism and grit as he gears up to captain Italy in their world title defence in South Africa.

At 36, his only possible regret is to have been turned down by Napoli, the side of his native Naples where he debuted in the Serie A in 1992, while he has no certainty to remain at Juventus.

‘I am a captain without a contract. The option to renew with Juventus has expired,’ La Gazzetta dello Sport quoted him as saying at the Azzurri mountain camp of Sestriere.

‘Going to the World Cup without a contract won’t be a problem. At my age I can handle such things. Juve in this moment have other things to consider.’

His defence of the much criticised Azzurri squad was as passionate as you would expect from a man who donned the blue jersey for a record-setting 132 times.

‘(Pessimism) is part of our history. We never started as favourites, still Italy won (the World Cup) four times. Only Brazil did better (with five),’ he said.

Comments on the advanced age of most Azzurri didn’t bother the captain, who noted that he won the 2006 World Cup at 33 and was 34 when in the same year he received the Golden Ball award and was named FIFA World Player.

His confidence extended to the reliability of Italy’s attack package, where ‘(Antonio) Di Natale was (Serie A) top scorer (on 28 goals). (Marco) Borriello, (Giampaolo) Pazzini, (Fabio) Quagliarella and (Alberto) Gilardino cannot be said not to score, and (Vincenzo) Iaquinta began scoring as soon as he recovered from injury.’

As for a defence that could have lost its solidity, Cannavaro remained upbeat.

‘You’ll see it on the pitch,’ he said.

Ahead of his fourth World Cup, which will close 13 years of games with the Azzurri, criticism from Italian fans truly seems to be Cannavaro’s least worry.

‘We know that in case of victory we will be heroes and in case of defeat they will massacre us,’ he said.

‘After the World Cup I will greet my younger team mates. I don’t think that the selector will call me again (for a friendly) in August.

‘Before that, however, I have a dream. Lifting again that cup as in Berlin it would be an incredible fun,’ he said.