Daniele De Rossi saw “the right reaction” from Italy, but denied criticising Mario Balotelli and Cesare Prandelli.
The Roma midfielder was the captain in tonight’s 2-0 friendly win over the Netherlands, the debut under new Coach Antonio Conte.
“The reaction and attitude was what we really wanted to see. Aside from all that, we also saw some good passing moves and they were recognisably a certain style of football.
“It is only a friendly, but winning is never easy, especially against Holland,” De Rossi told Rai Sport.
“Conte didn’t talk to us in the locker room afterwards, but everyone knows he really motivates his players.”
De Rossi was seen as criticising Balotelli after the World Cup debacle in Brazil, but insisted his words about new players not giving enough were twisted.
“That is not what I said, as I never mentioned young players. I said that in general we had to move forward with real men and real players who want to sacrifice themselves.
“I was the oldest on the field today, but they all worked hard and ran for the whole game. I don’t think we need Conte to understand what the Nazionale means. If you don’t understand what it means, then you don’t belong here.
“When a player goes all over the world in his career, the Nazionale remains the most important thing.
“When I said you don’t need Panini stickers I meant we didn’t need half-players, but whole people. I had no idea Balotelli had that picture with the stickers, so the media put some meaning to my words that wasn’t there.
“The fact people tried to find one, two or three targets did not sit well with me. The whole team deserved criticism at the World Cup and in order to begin again we needed the mentality we saw tonight.”
De Rossi also had praise for Prandelli, who resigned after the World Cup and is now in charge of Galatasaray.
“Above all I hope he does great things in Turkey. As always in Italy, even with Lippi who won the World Cup four years earlier, there is a lack of gratitude. Only ingrates forget that Prandelli took us to the Euro 2012 Final and we reached the Confederations Cup semi-final, getting third place.
“He took his responsibility, that should be it, but in Italy there is this target practice after any defeat and the Coach is easier to hit.”
De Rossi took over from Andrea Pirlo in midfield this evening and is expected to start against Norway in Tuesday’s Euro 2016 qualifier.
“I like playing in that role, especially as for two or three years I’ve been playing there. I can take on another two or three roles in midfield or defence, so I am happy to adapt. I realise Pirlo is still to come back and he is the master.”