Cesare Prandelli admits it was “an emotional night” and examines how Italy have changed in his year-long tenure.
“It was certainly an emotional night, as earning qualification at the Franchi was special for me,” he said when the 1-0 win over Slovenia booked their ticket to Euro 2012.
“If we look back to how we started a year ago, the team has made big steps forward. Of course we still have to improve a great deal, but the squad fought hard to win in every way possible.”
The game was a dour stalemate before Giampaolo Pazzini and Mario Balotelli came off the bench, switching to a 4-3-3 system, and the Inter striker scored the late goal.
“I made a change and decided to play with three strikers when I realised we had a good balance in midfield and could push hard down the flanks, so it was the time to run a risk.
“Paradoxically, we created fewer chances with the trident than before, but the goal is always a breakthrough moment.
“I saw a side that tried to play the ball, obviously not always effectively against teams who defend very well, but we never ran a risk at the back and created many scoring opportunities.
“I think this is the path we are on. We have so little time together to train that it's very difficult to create a more complex approach.
“We certainly have to work on our performances and be ready to change tactical system during a game, like we did today. With the right level of pressure, we can work with the objectives in sight.”
Balotelli impressed when he came off the bench, especially after days of intense criticism in the Italian media.
The Manchester City striker was accused of being lazy and even taking his iPad on to the bench against the Faroe Islands. He was one of several Italy players who visited a local prison on Monday for a Q&A.
“Balotelli just has to focus on playing. If he maintains this relaxed and determined attitude seen tonight, then he'll have no problems,” added Prandelli.
“Monday was significant for him. He realised that when something is done with the right attitude and generosity, anything can be forgiven.”
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