Prandelli focuses solely on Republic
20:53, 17 Jun 2012
Cesare Prandelli called for calm as he prepared to send Italy into their make-or-break Group C clash with the Republic of Ireland tomorrow night.
The Italians need to win to have any chance of making it to the quarter-finals and even then, a high-scoring draw between Spain and Croatia in Gdansk would put them out.
Prandelli was bombarded with "what if?" questions and speculation that the ghost of Euro 2004, where a draw between Sweden and Denmark accounted for Giovanni Trapattoni's Italy, could return to haunt them.
However, Prandelli was in relaxed mood as he approached a crucial 90 minutes, which he nevertheless described as "the most important game" of his reign to date.
Asked what would represent the difference between success and failure, he replied: "It's very difficult to say. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, we are just thinking about tomorrow's game.
"We want to win the game, that's it. Just let us play, let's get on with it, come on. We always want everything before it comes, we want everything now.
"We are always getting ahead of ourselves, us Italians, but I always say that if you get ahead of yourself, you fall over."
Italy go into the game on the back of successive 1-1 draws with Spain and Croatia and knowing anything less than a victory will prove fatal to their hopes of making it out of the group.
Even a win would not be enough if Spain and Croatia repeat the 2-2 scoreline which proved decisive in Portugal eight years ago to leave three teams on five points, when their respective returns against Ireland would be disregarded.
However, Prandelli insists he is thinking of nothing other than finding a way to condemn his former Juventus manager to a third successive Euro 2012 defeat.
He said: "Three days ago, I said it all depends on us and I have to prepare for this game solely focussed on the result in our game.
"I'm not really concerned about what everyone else is saying, it doesn't bother us.
"We are just focussed on tomorrow's game. You have written a lot and said a lot over the last few days.
"But I don't think a team like Spain, who have based their whole footballing image on giving a show and playing tactical football, they are not planning it down to the detail of what the result is going to be.
"It's not at all possible. We need to think of our own game. But I am also convinced we have the means at our disposal to go ahead and win this game."
Prandelli was quizzed repeatedly over whether he would field a three-man defence or a four-man defence, but was giving little away, and he was equally reticent on whether or not striker Mario Balotelli will be available after hurting his right knee in training.
He said: "We will see how Mario is on the training pitch. He's a lot better than he was yesterday, so if he trains, then of course he will be fit for the game."
Balotelli was indeed on the training pitch at the Municipal Stadium this evening, but the consensus was that he did not look 100% fit.
Trapattoni and Prandelli know each other well, of course, and the younger man retains a huge fondness for the 73-year-old, despite seeing his side slip to a 2-0 friendly defeat by Ireland in Liege last summer.
He said: "When I speak about Giovanni Trapattoni, I always talk about the coach, 'Il Mister', because I had him at a special time in my career.
"I was only 20 years old at the time and I grew up playing under him, and he always respected everyone.
"We had a team of great players, but even those of us who didn't play very much, he still thought we were very important, all the players in the squad.
"We have always discussed his strength, and he has great strength. He's got the desire to never give up, to always keep moving with the times, to always be competitive - and he still is very competitive.
"He is a fantastic person."