Italy in race to be ready to face Germany


WHEN ITALIAN coach Cesare Prandelli walked into his “day-after” press conference at Casa Azzurri in Krakow yesterday, he was greeted by resounding applause from the assembled ranks of the mainly Italian media.

None of the most experienced observers in the Italian press corps can recall such a reception being afforded to any of Prandell’s distinguished predecessors such as Enzo Bearzot, Arrigo Sacchi or Marcello Lippi.

With some 20 million Italians tuning in to watch Italy’s quarter final, shoot-out win over England on Sunday night, Prandelli might have reason to be proud. When he sat down to talk, however, he put the applause in context, saying with a big smile: “And if things had gone differently last night, would you still have applauded me?”

As he looked forward to Italy’s semi-final clash with Germany in Warsaw on Thursday, Prandelli indicated that his biggest concern was linked to the physical well -being of his side. Not only do the Germans have two more days to prepare for this game, but Italy obviously go into it on the back of an exhausting, two-hour game against England.

Prandelli even suggested that perhaps Uefa could do a better job with the tournament programme, saying: “It’s a problem that Uefa need to address for the next tournament. To come into a game like this with a disadvantage is certainly no great spectacle.”

When it was suggested to him he ought to be worried that, despite an exaggerated 63 per cent dominance, his side were unable to win Sunday’s match in normal time, Prandelli responded:

“I’ll settle for match stats like those of last night anytime. There’s a new generation that wants to see Italy play this way. This was a game that we tried to win, it could have gone wrong but we kept trying to win it and people want that.”

For the second time in this tournament, Prandelli marked his victory by heading out on a pilgrimage to a nearby monastery as soon as he returned from Kiev to the team hotel in Wieliczka, near Krakow. After the victory over Ireland, he and his staff went on a 21 kilometre hike. Yesterday morning at about half past four, he set out on an 11 kilometre hike.

Prandelli acknowledges, however, that he will need more than divine assistance to get his side fit and ready in time to face Germany. For the time being, there are worries about a number of players, including Antonio Cassano, Giorgio Chiellini, Daniele Di Rossi and even Andre Pirlo.

Asked about the latter’s remarkable dinked penalty during the shoot-out, Prandelli commented: “I was surprised by him but I was much impressed with what he said afterwards, namely that he wanted to put the English under pressure with a goal like that. That is proof that great players understand the psychological aspect of the game.”

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