Italy boss Cesare Prandelli has underlined the importance of Andrea Pirlo to his Azzurri side ahead of tonight's Northern Ireland game.
The Juventus man will win his 79th cap this evening and is just as vital to Prandelli as he was to Marcello Lippi in 2006.
"It would be very difficult to do without him in the team," the tactician told RAI on Tuesday afternoon.
"Nobody dictates the play like he does.
"He also has a characteristic that few people consider – he provides a calmness to the play and instils a tranquillity into his teammates."
While Pirlo, who made his debut in 2002, continues to be a certainty in the future, Antonio Cassano is on his final warning.
The Milan man insulted a journalist at Coverciano last week, the latest in a long line of misdemeanours during his career.
"I agree perfectly with President Giancarlo Abete when he says that we won't tolerate any more mistakes from Cassano."
Meanwhile, the former Fiorentina and Parma boss was asked for his thoughts on the possibility of Paolo Maldini being handed a role within the national side's management team.
"A person like Maldini would bring experience, personality and professionalism," Prandelli continued.
"Champions like him, but also Fabio Cannavaro, gave Italy not only victories but a winning image. He is a symbol of Italy around the world."
Milan legend Maldini was Italy's most capped player on 126 games until Cannavaro made 136 appearances.
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