Giorgio Chiellini believes Italy reached “a turning point” in Cesare Prandelli's reign with their victory in Slovenia.
“We knew this was a turning point in our growth and improvement. We realised that the friendly with Germany was a huge boost in confidence and showed us what we can do,” he said of last night's 1-0 win in Ljubljana.
“Now we have to keep working and developing, as this is a good side. This victory is a crucial stepping stone, as we kept a clean sheet and didn't run many risks, plus at this stage only we can throw away qualification. I doubt that will happen.”
The result, thanks to Thiago Motta's goal, puts the Azzurri six points clear at the top of Euro 2012 qualifying Group C.
Italy had never won in Slovenia and were dubbed ‘a Serie B side' by their critics this week.
“Even criticism motivates you in the end and the things we've heard over the last few days gave us that extra push to show we're not as bad as people make out,” continued Chiellini.
“We're aware that Italian football, and especially Juventus, aren't going through a great period internationally. For Gigi Buffon and Leonardo Bonucci as well as myself, this was a good opportunity for us to prove to ourselves that we're not that bad!
“Even if we don't have huge star names like in the past, we do have a real hunger to make our mark.”
Chiellini returned to centre-back after a spell on the left for both Juventus and Italy, making way for Federico Balzaretti.
“I've never made it a secret that I prefer to play in the centre, but I am also ready to do anything necessary to help out the team. With Balzaretti playing so well, I don't think it'll be an issue.”
Prandelli is trying to implement a different style to the Italy squad, exemplified by the move that created their goal.
“We have been constantly seeking these give-and-go passing moves, as that can free up a man to go forward. We've still got to get better, but even in our mistakes, we were able to make up for them.”