Cesare Prandelli hit back at Italy's critics. “They gave us up for dead, but we've wiped out the post-World Cup pessimism.”
The Azzurri have been revived under their new Coach, winning back-to-back games away to Slovenia and Ukraine, while they are five points clear at the top of Euro 2012 qualifying Group C.
“Yes, there is a more relaxed atmosphere and we've wiped out the post-World Cup pessimism,” Prandelli told Ansa news agency.
“The criticism made us give a little bit more. My greatest satisfaction is seeing a group of lads who forge a team unit, a style of play and their own identity.
“They gave us up for dead, but we are very much alive. We can be an important squad even without world class individuals, although of course we do still have them, starting from Gianluigi Buffon.”
Antonio Cassano's form has hit problems in recent months between his Sampdoria row and the move to Milan.
“He knows how to take responsibility, but if he had the support of good fitness, then he'd be truly decisive.
“All players want to start consistently at club level and I hope for the next call-ups I'll have people with a lot of time on the pitch under their belts.”
Sebastian Giovinco set up the second goal in Ukraine with a delightful backheel flick and also earned praise.
“Paradoxically I had more answers from the Ukraine game than against Slovenia, because it's difficult to find a balance when you can change eight players,” continued Prandelli.
“We had therefore focused on three aspects: organisation, aggression in midfield and breaking forward. I saw all those, despite the difficulties.
“If I have to name one player who impressed me, I'd say Giovinco: tenacious, effective, he was never afraid of the tackle and showed great vision for the goal.”
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition - £5,000 monthly.