Prandelli desperate for Croatia win
18:25, 11 Jun 2012
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has labelled Thursday's game against Croatia as "crucial" to their hopes of advancing past the group stages of the European Championship.
The Azzurri claimed a 1-1 draw with holders Spain in their Group C opener yesterday and next take on a Croatia side that beat Ireland 3-1.
"The game against Croatia will be the crucial game of the group," Prandelli said. "I expect a very complicated game. Our aim is to win because I reiterate that this is a key match."
Prandelli has warned his players not to get carried away by their positive start to the tournament and expects his side will be fully tested by Slaven Bilic's men.
"Croatia is a more dangerous side than Spain because it is unpredictable," Prandelli said. "We will study Croatia although they change the way the play throughout the game.
"Croatia's performance against Ireland confirmed what we already thought for some time, that Croatia is a strong side."
Prandelli has not ruled out making changes to the team that drew against Spain.
"Before we decide who will play we need to consider how we are going to face Croatia," he said. "We have two important training sessions before the game and I will look at our options before making a decision.
"It is an important game and I will consider the mental and physical form of my players and see who is ready."
Reports in Italy claim Prandelli could opt to bench Mario Balotelli in favour of Antonio Di Natale.
Balotelli has come under criticism after a disappointing display against Spain, with the Manchester City forward having missed a golden chance to put the Azzurri ahead.
Di Natale, who finished as the top Italian scorer in Serie A this season with Udinese, replaced Balotelli before the hour mark and scored against Spain.
"Mario is 21 and he is in the process of maturing," Prandelli said. "All I ask him is to play a simple game without thinking of trying to resolve a game alone.
"He needs to think of giving depth to our game. He did a little bit of that against Spain. For the first time he has prove to everyone the potential that he is said to have and for sure he feels more responsibility."