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Prandelli admits to Italian worries

SoccerNews in European Championships, Serie A 2 Sep 2010

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Italy coach Cesare Prandelli admitted there’s an atmosphere of apprehension surrounding the national team ahead of Friday’s Euro 2012 qualifier against Estonia in Tallinn.

Italy are trying to rebuild and regroup following their disastrous World Cup defence in South Africa, in which they failed to win a game and were bundled out of the group stages following a 3-2 defeat to minnows Slovakia.

Since then there have been changes afoot with Prandelli replacing Marcello Lippi and many of the old guard pushed out and replaced by younger but less experienced players.

But Italy have not won a game in this calendar year and failure to beat Estonia would mean equalling their worst ever run of eight games without a win.

Prandelli admitted that this has produced nerves amongst his group.

“Of course everyone’s feeling fragile because there’s an atmosphere of uncertainty and worry, so it’s natural to feel fragile,” he said.

“Some of these players only started their journey with the national team five days ago so it’s natural to be nervous.

“But there’s also another aspect which is letting them know that they’re doing something important and they’re the protagonists.

“That’s part of the work we do, it’s not just on the pitch but we also work on their psychology.”

On paper this should be an easy game against a team that is only just ranked inside the world’s top 100.

But Prandelli stressed that they need to be taken seriously and that you cannot go into a game believing it will be easy.

“It depends on how we play and what attitude we show, if we lose these games (Friday’s and Tuesday’s at home to Faroe Islands) I wouldn’t say it’s a disaster but it is what it is,” he said.

“We always have respect for our opponents, it’s not just that everyone says every game is hard, they really are.

“It depends on what happens, after a match you can maybe say it was an easy game but when preparing for a match, definitely not.

“It’s a qualification game on a small pitch, they’re a good team, we’ve had a look at them, they’ve got some good players.

“The potential pitfalls are related to what attitude we show. We’re all curious, we can’t wait to get started.

“I’ve asked the lads to grow together as a team and their attitude has been exceptional.”

Prandelli has already selected his entire outfield team and is only undecided on his goalkeeper.

Giampaolo Pazzini will play up front, flanked by Antonio Cassano on the left and Simone Pepe on the right.

Captain Andrea Pirlo will be joined by Daniele De Rossi and Riccardo Montolivo in a three-man midfield.

At the back Leonardo Bonucci will partner Giorgio Chiellini in the middle with Cristian Molinaro and Mattia Cassani operating as full-backs.

In goal it is a toss up between Palermo’s Salvatore Sirigu, who made his debut under Prandelli in last month’s 1-0 friendly defeat to Ivory Coast in London, and uncapped Bologna stopper Emiliano Viviano.

Whatever his team, Prandelli believes one of the most important elements to Italy’s success is getting the best out of Cassano.

And the former Fiorentina boss believes he has the key to that.

“He’s a lad who always needs affection, that’s the key to the door with Antonio,” he said of the Sampdoria forward.

“If he feels someone is treating him sincerely with affection, he opens up completely, if he doesn’t feel that affection he turns in on himself.”

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