Cesare Prandelli has declared he’s “not even considered” going back to the 3-5-2 system against Spain in tomorrow’s Euro 2012 Final.
Prandelli praised reigning European and World Champions Spain, who aim to make history on Sunday by becoming the first nation to win three major tournaments back-to-back.
“Spain are the best side in the world and proved that over the years, as they always maintained their characteristics and approach. We always said they were the team to beat.
“Spain’s strength is not just possession, but also their ability to win back the ball in midfield. Their defence always closes in quickly.
“As for our strategy, we must do well during the game to take the right moments and create superiority in midfield. We’re not so arrogant as to say we’ll control the game from start to finish, as we have great respect for Spain, but we will try to make the most of our chances.
“In qualifying we always tried to play by making the most of our quality and sticking to the attacking approach, even when running a few risks. We never really played with the long ball, even in training, unless trying to release some tension.
“We know it is a difficult route, but it is the best one and in my view can be the winning one.”
Andrea Pirlo has shone in this competition and is expected to win the MVP award, but Prandelli explained his teammates are crucial.
“Our midfield has had quality for two years, can also press and create problems. Obviously we have a player in Pirlo who makes the most of these characteristics. Often the other midfielders work in such a way as to allow Pirlo to control the midfield.
“Are Spain boring? It’s not boredom people feel, but the fear of seeing an inevitable result. Spain have shown they always end up with a positive result, so they are absolutely not boring.
“Our tactical approach will be positive and attacking, where the first objective is to close space to get the ball back. Obviously where we try to win back possession will depend on our attitude and Spain’s performance.”
Italy played Spain in a 1-1 draw on June 10 and the Coach admitted to being surprised by their no-striker system.
“The seven or eight minutes of anxiety were before the game, when we didn’t know how they would be set out. We expect the usual Spain, who keep possession and can also attack and defend, as don’t forget they have only conceded once.
“They invented the idea their midfielders are forwards and it’s modern football, the kind I like. We have to be very clear-headed to read every situation.”
The Azzurri adopted a 3-5-2 system in the matches against Spain and Croatia, but Prandelli assures he is not even considering a return to that tactic.
“In all honesty, no, I haven’t considered it. We maintained a certain balance over the last few games, although we understood that during the match we can switch to a 3-5-2 if we want to.
“The team that opened the tournament had a different approach, but over time we found fitness and the balance we had been looking for, so rediscovered the certainty we had lost before the competition.
“We needed a few more training sessions to bring back the hunger to play openly. We played everyone openly, risking a few things, and we’ll do it again tomorrow.
“We prepared the game with Germany based on videos, as we didn’t have the energy to go on the training field. We’ve done the same and it’s not easy to prepare that way. We arrived at 3am last night and are talking about tomorrow, so there’s no time to do anything else.
“If you do it in training, it’s simulating a match situation and we are best served by doing that in video terms in this situation.”
Antonio Cassano was a major doubt to even reach the tournament after undergoing heart surgery and a mini-stroke at the end of October, but has been a key figure.
“I am not surprised, because we realised straight away he had incredible determination to be a protagonist at this Euros and made many sacrifices,” said Prandelli in his Press conference.
“I don’t think his illness improved him as a person, but rather the birth of his son and the responsibility of becoming a father.”
Prandelli was also asked about Mario Balotelli, who is putting his ‘bad boy’ reputation behind him.
“Balotelli found an environment where he was dealing with great champions who have won and made great sacrifices to get there. At a certain point you need the courage to accept advice and situations where your responsibility becomes a priority.
“In football terms we were clear after the Croatia game and asked Mario for specific things that he is now doing very well.”
The Italy team has been invited for a meeting with the Head of State Giorgio Napolitano on Monday, regardless of the Final result, and he sent a letter to their Coach.
“I read the letter with great emotion and as always found important words for us and can’t wait to read it out to my players, as it included talk about unity, working together and things we want for the nation as well as the team. We are proud and hope to be up to the task.
“We felt Napolitano’s presence and closeness the first time he came to see us against Spain. He showed great faith in us when not everyone had confidence in this side,” noted Prandelli.
“I was not surprised, as our Head of State has shown great sensibility. When a team is altruistic, passionate, respectful and has given its all, then it should be applauded regardless.”
Prandelli has taken a nap the day before every big game, suggesting he is relaxed and not feeling the pressure too much, but the tension is mounting.
“As for my nap, I wasn’t quite able to rest that much, to be honest.”