Ankle injury forces Italy captain Cannavaro out of Euro 2008 (Lead)

June 3rd, 2008 - 4:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Milan, June 3 (DPA) The Italian squad faces an uphill start to their Euro 2008 campaign after losing their captain Fabio Cannavaro to an ankle injury suffered during a training session. A clash with defence team mate Giorgio Chiellini ended Euro 2008 before it began for the 34-year-old Real Madrid defender, who was set to leave the world champions’ camp outside Vienna Tuesday.

As Italy gear up for a debut game against the Netherlands Monday, coach Roberto Donadoni has already called Fiorentina’s Alessandro Gamberini to join the 23-man line-up.

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is to be the new captain, while two among Marco Materazzi, Christian Panucci, Andrea Barzagli and Chiellini will make up the core of Italy’s defence package.

“I am an optimist, even in moments like this,” Cannavaro said, explaining he had “hit half the ball and half the ground, getting (my foot) stuck” when he and Chiellini clashed.

The result was a blow to his calf and a sudden twist that damaged the ligaments in his left ankle. Exams in a Vienna hospital showed no fracture, but it was unclear Tuesday if the ankle had to be operated on.

In 2006, Cannavaro won the Golden Ball and the FIFA World Player awards after being crucial for Italy as it won its fourth World Cup in Germany.

His absence has raised concerns about the reliability of Italy’s defence, which lately seemed to have lost its trademark solidity.

La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper noted that Italy has always conceded at least one goal in its last five outings, a far cry from the two goals conceded during the World Cup, which were an own goal and a spot kick.

Italy faces a tough start in Group C against the Netherlands, Romania and France, but is among the favourites to win the tournament jointly hosted by Austria and Switzerland.

They last won the continental crown in 1968 and look to clinch a prestigious double in the wake of the World Cup triumph.

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