SESTRIERE, Italy (AP) — Defending champion Italy opened its World Cup training camp Sunday before a backdrop of snow-capped mountains in the Alps.
The Azzurri chose to train in Sestriere, which sits at an elevation of 6,500 feet, to prepare for playing games at high altitude at the tournament in South Africa.
The squad was met with a small protest when players failed to sign autographs at a send-off in Turin. But fans cheered the players when they trotted out on the training field in Sestriere — the resort that was the site of Alpine skiing during the 2006 Turin Olympics.
Coach Marcello Lippi has brought 28 players, meaning he will have to cut his squad by five when he submits his final 23-man list to FIFA on June 1.
"Everybody is under observation," Lippi said. "I still have some reservations about the final list so the workouts over the next few days will be key."
Lippi already has one injury worry, with starting center back Giorgio Chiellini out for a few days because of a minor injury to his left calf muscle.
Lippi praised Inter Milan for winning the Champions League on Saturday, even though he didn't name any of the club's players in his group — a result of Inter's squad being made up almost entirely of foreigners.
"It was a great night, a real celebration for Italian football and, above all, for a team that has won everything this season, and deservedly so," Lippi said. "I see in Inter a good sign for our road ahead at the World Cup."
Italy will be based primarily in Sestriere for the next two weeks, with day trips for warmup matches against Mexico in Brussels on June 3 and against Switzerland in Geneva two days later.
In South Africa, the World Cup holder opens against Paraguay on June 14 and will also face New Zealand and Slovakia in Group F.