Thursday June 21 2012
Bonucci: We’re stronger than England

Leonardo Bonucci has praised England’s defensive solidity in Euro 2012, joked about Daniele De Rossi and advised Mario Balotelli.

Ahead of Italy’s quarter-final clash with England on Sunday night at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, Bonucci sat down with the Press on Thursday to take general questions on the latest with the Azzurri.

First on the agenda was Daniele De Rossi, who in light of Giorgio Chiellini’s thigh strain, could again be lining up alongside Bonucci in the centre of defence. Bonucci was asked if it bothered him that De Rossi played in the centre of the three, rather than him.

“Daniele is a great force in midfield, he must play in the middle…” joked the 25-year-old.

“But in all seriousness, against Spain and Croatia he has demonstrated his added value. I am available to the Coach and it’s true that I am used to playing in the centre of defence, a position that allows me to read the game at Juventus.

“If you are moved to the middle then you have to be more aggressive and good at jumping [for crosses]. For me, I’m fine in any case.”

The Azzurri will face a new-look England under Roy Hodgson, who in this tournament have become known for a very defensive, counterattacking style of play.

“They have the attitude of an Italian team, good defensively, tough, they should be studied carefully. Their line of defence, Glen Johnson, John Terry, Joleon Lescott and Ashley Cole is world class.

“Technically, we are stronger in the field for how we play. But, what also counts are attributes like aggression, desire to win and competitiveness, whilst we also have those.

“We’ve started to study [Wayne Rooney]. Moreover, Cesare Prandelli is like Antonio Conte. He prepares for games with many videos and lots of work at training. It is so you always know what to do. And in this case, we must be wary of the English.”

Bonucci was then asked about his action against Republic of Ireland earlier this week, when he put his hand over goalscorer Mario Balotelli’s mouth to prevent the forward from an outburst likely to be aimed at Cesare Prandelli.

“I know Mario well, from when we were 17, I would berate him even then, in the primavera at Inter. He remains a good guy, at that time [against Ireland] let’s say I took care of him, he could have incurred a heavy penalty, I’m glad I found myself there.

“What he said then and there I didn’t really understand, it was a typical outburst in the heat of the moment.

“After the game I went to him in the dressing room to congratulate him and to prompt him to only think about playing. Mario thanked me for the gesture and the kind words.

“We are different, temperamentally, he’s instinctive, 21 years old, I have important people around me, I always respect everyone, I try to be myself. Again, he thanked me, and he must only think of fun, realising that what we are paid for as work is fun.”

There was some debate in the run-up to the tournament as to whether or not Bonucci should have been selected, in light of Domenico Criscito’s removal from the squad, despite the differences in their situations with regard the ongoing investigation into illegal betting and match-fixing in Serie A and B.

“I was disappointed that Mimmo was not here for something outside of football. It’s never easy to take certain decisions. There have been ups and downs that led the Federation to make choices, for the protection of everyone. Otherwise, we would always be here wondering why or why not. Anything done at the time can have its pros and cons.”

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