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Wednesday 29th May 2002

Atalanta midfielder Cristiano Doni has dismissed any talk that he is too old to be making his competitive Italy debut after being named as a certain starter for the Azzurri's opening World Cup game against Ecuador on Monday. "I have merely ripened slowly," he said.

The 29-year-old will start on the left-side of midfield after coach Giovanni Trapattoni decided to employ a 4-4-2 system, something that has not been greeted with universal glee.

Doni, though, was delighted. "It could be great," he said. "It will be a great honour for me."

Operating with just two up front, however, means that Francesco Totti will play in a more advanced position than he would prefer, while Vincenzo Montella and Marco Delvecchio miss out altogether.

It remains to be seen what will happen when Filippo Inzaghi returns to fitness. The AC Milan forward has had a knee problem, but is expected to be back for Italy's second game, against Croatia on June 8.
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