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Shevchenko aims to break Italian hearts

Written by: Staff

DUISBURG, June 29: Ukraine striker Andriy Shevchenko is the main threat to Italy's hopes of reaching the World Cup semi-finals but at least they know all about him.

Shevchenko, playing in Ukraine's first finals, was the darling of AC Milan fans during seven seasons in which he scored 173 goals and helped them win the Champions League and Serie A.

But he will not be thinking about that on Friday.

''It will be very hard but during the game I will only be thinking about how to best play for Ukraine,'' he said.

His decision last month to become Chelsea's record signing robbed the Italian league of one of its top players and former Milan team mate Alessandro Nesta knows exactly how good he is.

''There are few players like him in the world,'' said the Italy defender who misses the quarter-final with a groin injury.

''To stop Shevchenko you have to be at 100 percent because he has very few weak points. You have to stick with him and be attentive for the whole 90 minutes,'' he added.

Shevchenko was equally complimentary about Italy.

''I would single out the whole team,'' he said when asked who were Italy's strongest players.

Nesta's absence and the suspension of natural replacement Marco Materazzi leaves Italy coach Marcello Lippi with no option but to field the relatively inexperienced Andrea Barzagli alongside Fabio Cannavaro in the centre of defence.

Nesta, who hopes to return if Italy make the semi-finals, was confident Barzagli would be able to handle the challenge.

''He is a young player but he has the advantage of being very cool under pressure and also a very strong lad,'' he said.

Lippi has altered his personnel and formation for each of the Azzurri's games so far in the tournament and will be under pressure to recall Francesco Totti to the starting lineup.

Totti, not yet back to full fitness after three months out with a broken ankle, started on the bench against Australia on Monday but came on in the final 15 minutes and converted the last-gasp penalty which secured passage to the last eight.

Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin has received a major blow with striker Andriy Voronin ruled out for the rest of the World Cup.

In his absence, Blokhin will turn to either Andriy Vorobei or Serhiy Rebrov to partner Shevchenko.

Also back in the frame for tomorrow's match in Hamburg is defender Volodymir Yezersky, who missed the last three games with a thigh injury.

Vyacheslav Svidersky and Andriy Rusol return after the suspensions that kept them out of the penalty shootout victory over Switzerland in the second round.

Teams: Italy (4-3-2-1): 1-Gianluigi Buffon; 19-Gianluca Zambrotta, 6-Andrea Barzagli, 5-Fabio Cannavaro, 3-Fabio Grosso; 20-Simone Perrotta, 21-Andrea Pirlo, 8-Gennaro Gattuso; 16-Mauro Camoranesi, 10-Francesco Totti; 11-Alberto Gilardino.

Ukraine (3-5-2) 1-Oleksander Shovkovsky (72-0); 6-Andriy Rusol (26-2), 22-Vyacheslav Svidersky (8-0), 2-Andriy Nesmachny (53-0); 9-Oleg Gusev (29-1), 4-Anatoly Tymoshchyuk (59-1), 8-Oleg Shelayev (23-0), 19-Maxim Kalinichenko (24-4), 11-Serhiy Rebrov (74-15); 7-Andriy Shevchenko (68-31), 16-Andriy Vorobei (56-7)


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