After admitting that the prospect of facing tournament holders Spain was not causing him to lose sleep, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said he would be sending his side out for the Group C opener in Gdansk with the intention "to win".
When the draw for UEFA EURO 2012 was made at the Palace of Arts in Kyiv last December, excitement abounded at the prospect of an encounter between the last two world champions and now that it has finally arrived, the coach of the Azzurri called on his players to be "dynamic, active and energetic" as they seek to upset a Spain team unbeaten in their last 14 competitive encounters.
"We have good feelings about the match and have trained well," the 54-year-old informed a packed press conference ahead of the 30th meeting between these teams. "We have prepared in a positive way and we are fully aware that we have a good team. If we work together we can be really competitive."
With Juventus defender Andrea Barzagli currently nursing a left calf injury, midfielder Daniele De Rossi is expected to deputise in the heart of the Italy defence. "We have tried many options but this is something we often do," Prandelli explained. "If De Rossi he has to play in that position it won't be only as a defender but also as a defensive midfielder.
"Tomorrow we want to keep our opponents away from our penalty area.
They will probably have more possession and will cause us problems but when Italy play football as we know we can, we can fully challenge a team like Spain."
Vicente Del Bosque, for his part, warned his side that they would need to be at their best in order to avoid a repeat of their opening defeat against Switzerland at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, an outcome the Spain coach said would seriously hamper the team's chances of retaining the title they won four years ago. "In a group of four teams the first game is fundamental," he said. "
We want to start well but know we will have a very strong team in front of us."
With midfielder Cesc Fàbregas having shaken off the thigh complaint he picked up in FC Barcelona's Copa del Rey final victory against Athletic Club, Del Bosque has a full 23-man squad available for what will be a repeat of the teams' EURO 2008 quarter-final encounter which Spain won on penalties.
"I have decided on my team but the players will not be informed until the morning of the game," the coach said, leaving many to guess as to which of Fernando Torres, Álvaro Negredo and Fernando Llorente will gain the starting role up front.
"There are always doubts when you have to pick 11 players and when everyone is so keen to play. We have a stupendous group who all get along well with one another. We prepared well for this tournament and are ready for any situation on the night."
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