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  Euro Stars    Francesco Totti


Totti ready to make big impact for Italy
Francesco Totti
Francesco Totti is no longer a promising youngster or an emerging talent but the kingpin of an Italian side who are among the favourites to win Euro 2004.

So much depends on whether Totti can consistently perform at his best in Portugal that it is no exaggeration to say that if Totti fails, Italy are likely to struggle too.

If, on the other hand, the Roma captain can provide the refined passing and clinical finishing he has shown over the past four seasons in Serie A, it will take a great side to stop the Italians next month.

Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni has built his entire team around the 27-year-old Totti, giving him the licence to roam in his favoured role behind two strikers.

It means Totti is allowed to drift into space and given the freedom to drop as deep as he wishes in search of possession.

It is a role he is ideally suited to with his sublime passing skills, his ability to beat a man and open up space and his outstanding shooting from distance.

But while such a Totti-centric approach is a risky strategy that could leave Italy feeling threadbare if he picks up an injury or struggles for form, it shows how much Trapattoni rates Totti's ability to open up opposition defences.

After the World Cup disappointment two years ago 'Trap' is unlikely to rob Totti of a chance to play where he can be most threatening.

In South Korea and Japan fitness problems and a last-minute change of heart by Trapattoni resulted in Totti being asked to partner Vieri as a striker.

The result was that Italy lost their cutting edge in attack and Totti was unable to make a real mark in a major tournament.

Trapattoni can afford to give Totti his liberty now because he has an abundant choice at his disposal up front with Vieri, Alessandro Del Piero, Marco Di Vaio and Antonio Cassano all competing for the right to benefit from Totti's service.

The midfield has been constructed to win possession and feed Totti and the movement of Italy's forwards so often anticipates the sweeping cross-field passes that are his hallmark.

With a coach who has described him as "fundamental" to the team's fortunes and a squad capable of going all the way, Totti has every reason to believe this could be his tournament.
- Simon Evans




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