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http://www.football365.com/story/0,17033,8652_4516546,00.html

Italy coach Marcello Lippi will give Giuseppe Rossi his first senior start in Wednesday's international friendly against Greece in Athens.



Rossi, who made his debut with the world champions as a second-half substitute against Bulgaria last month, will partner Bayern Munich striker Luca Toni in the Azzurri attack.

The 21-year-old has earned much praise after an impressive start to the campaign in the Primera Liga with Villarreal, where he has scored six goals in the last seven games.

"Giuseppe is 21 but has a strange experience for a youngster like him," said Lippi.

"He has already played in three big leagues (Premier League, Serie A and Primera Liga), he is matured and ready."

Rossi is eager to continue his goalscoring form and help the Azzurri clinch a victory.

"I will try to make the most of my chances," he said. "If I have arrived here it is thanks to the work I've done and to the support of my family."

Toni is desperate to end his goalscoring drought with the national team having failed to find the back of the net since February, when he scored in a friendly against Portugal.

"I really miss scoring for Italy," said Toni, who failed to score in Euro 2008. "I really want to score my 16th goal with the national team.

"I know I can do it, I feel good and fit."

A positive result in Athens would allow Lippi to equal the world record of 31 international games without defeat set by former Spain coach Javier Clemente and ex-Argentina tactician Alfio Basile.

But Lippi's main focus is for his team to continue to reconstruct the Azzurri.

The Italians have shown no signs of weakness in their World Cup qualifying campaign - they lead Group Eight having won three and drawn once in four encounters.

"The important thing is to grow as a team," said Lippi. "The game against Greece is a perfect test to evaluate the group.

"I want to see my team take another step in growing as a team."

Lippi knows his team will face a test against the 2004 European champions.

"Greece are a top team," said Lippi. "We will have to be focused and show determination from the start."

The Azzurri welcome back Fabio Grosso, Nicola Legrottaglie, Mauro Camoranesi and Vincenzo Iaquinta, who have all recovered from injuries.

Galatasaray goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis will replace injured Gianluigi Buffon in goal.

Greece coach Otto Rehhagel, meanwhile, could hand a debut to Ergotelis forward Vassilis Koutsianikoulis.

The 20-year-old, who has featured previously in the Greece Under-21 squad, shot to prominence in his club's 3-2 triumph over Panathinaikos at the Olympic Stadium in late October and was a surprise inclusion in Rehhagel's 20-man group for the match at the Georgios Karaiskakis stadium.

Angelos Charisteas and Giourkas Seitaridis have both been ruled out through injury, while Rehhagel has also left out Celtic striker Georgios Samaras, who has only just returned to fitness, as well as defender Sotiris Kyrgiakos and forward Yiannis Amanatidis.

Panathinaikos striker Vangelis Mantzios is in line for an international return after impressive displays in the Champions League.
 
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