Italy boss Cesare Prandelli has labelled Spain as almost unbeatable ahead of Thursday’s Confederations Cup semi-final.
The two teams will again face off this week just a year after the Spaniards beat the Azzurri 4-0 in the Final of Euro 2012.
“Spain are in much better shape than us, given the ease with which they qualified,” the CT stated. “They have a clear identity and are clear favourites.
“Spain are the best team in the world and they have proved that over the last four or five years. They are almost impossible to beat.
“One would never like to play them, but we have to and I am convinced that we can make it difficult. This challenge always creates great motivation.”
Italy’s task has been made much tougher after star striker Mario Balotelli returned to the peninsula because of a thigh strain.
“You have to take these things in the right spirit, we are working in a serious way and we are in the semi-finals, we are in a position of privilege.
“Without Balotelli we will focus even more on the collective team spirit and the development of the attacking play.
“We have to get into ours heads that we will suffer against Spain, that their possession of the ball will be higher than ours, and that the Spaniards are phenomenons who can cope with any kind of trap of opposing teams.
“They are good at keeping the ball and attacking, we have to try to make them run as much as possible. I would like to see an Italy as brave as that of the second half against Brazil.”
Although the Azzurri have progressed to the last four, they have worryingly conceded eight goals in three games.
“Four of them should not have been given, so that would take it down to four,” Prandelli responded. “I’d rather think about the eight we scored, even if one of those was generous [penalty versus Japan].”
Prandelli named tiredness as one of the reasons for Italy’s collapse in Kiev last summer, and he fears the same this time around.
“We must consider the athletic and mental condition of the players. The Confederations Cup is a nice tournament, but it needs to be better organised,” he warned.
“All teams should be treated equally – instead they make you play three games in six days. That’s why there are so many injuries.
“Saying that, this is an experience which will serve us well for the World Cup.
“Here at the Confederations many of my players have made a big step forward in terms of temperament and personality – a team that plays like us in the second half against Brazil, in their home, bodes well. Others would have given up at 3-1 down.”