Age played part in Del Piero omission, says Italy coach

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MILAN, Oct 9 (Reuters) Italy coach Roberto Donadoni has said Alessandro Del Piero's age played a part in his decision not to pick the World Cup winner in the squad for Saturday'sEuro 2008 qualifier against Georgia.

The omission of Del Piero, 33 next month, was on the cards after he was left out of last month's 2-1 win in Ukraine following a lacklustre performance in the 0-0 draw with France.

He has since said he only wanted to play for Italy as a striker rather than a winger where he is often employed.

''It is difficult to leave anyone at home, not just Del Piero.

Certainly he must show he is in condition like all the players,'' Donadoni told reporters at Italy's training base outside Florence.

''At 33 years old it is harder than at 27 to manage certain things but my choices are not personal. I take into account the balance of a group of 20 players.'' The Juventus captain, whose contract talks have stalled, started Sunday's 1-1 draw at Fiorentina on the bench. Italian football federation chief Giancarlo Abete said Del Piero's omission did not mean the end of his Italy career.

DEFINITIVE END ''Italian football must be grateful to Del Piero for what he has given to the national team and Juventus. But one missed call-up does nothing to his career,'' Abete told reporters.

''His bitterness is understandable but it is not a definitive end. What counts is not a single person but the worth of the team.

The federation has faith in the coach's decision.'' AC Milan striker Filippo Inzaghi 34, was also left out of the squad for the game in Genoa in a more surprising move.

Inzaghi struggled against France too and was dropped for the Ukraine game but he has been Italy's saviour many times, including two goals in the 2-1 win in the Faroes in June which saved the world champions from immense embarrassment.

''It is a problem for everybody. There are many players over 30 years of age and other nations are having difficulties intregrating fresh blood. Generational change will be an issue for the next few years,'' Abete added.

After nine games Italy are second in Group B with 20 points, one behind leaders Scotland and one ahead of France.

Juve striker Vincenzo Iaquinta, who started in place of Del Piero on Sunday, has a swollen knee but may be fit for Saturday.

Reuters SSC DB2018

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