After a disappointing FIFA World Cup, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) understood it was time for a change. Cesare Prandelli was appointed coach and, as the Azzurri set off on the road to UEFA EURO 2012, former Italy favourite Gianfranco Zola believes the 'Prandelli revolution' will prove a success.
Not that he is taking anything for granted. Italy started their Group C campaign with a 2-1 win in Estonia on Friday and are now preparing to host the Faroe Islands on Tuesday, ahead of later tests against Northern Ireland, Serbia and Slovenia. With those last two teams having also travelled to South Africa 2010, Zola knows the former ACF Fiorentina coach will have to find his feet quickly at international level.
"It will not be an easy group when you consider the situation in Italy, but I have faith because we have a coach who has always had good experiences in his previous jobs, although this [as national team coach] is a new experience for him," Zola told UEFA.com. "
He works very well with young players and that gives us the chance to build something new with a different, fresh mentality. I hope with my whole heart that our football becomes successful again."
A hugely popular figure during his time at Fiorentina, Prandelli is not afraid to deal with players considered by some as difficult to handle, providing the talent is there. He showed as much by recalling Antonio Cassano, who scored Italy's equaliser against Estonia, and also handing Mario Balotelli his full debut during his first game in charge last month.
"He is very good at working with players, whether they are young and new or players with a certain experience and personality," Zola explained. "That is fundamental. At the moment the Italy team needs a leader, one who shows the way, mixed with young players who can inspire and freshen up the national team."
Prandelli has proved a success with young players throughout his club career, but Zola − who has worked as assistant coach for Italy's Under-21 side − knows just how hard it can be for the country's youngsters to find playing time in Serie A.
"I hope things change," he said. "But it's true that young players don't get a chance to play in our championship, which delays their development. A young player needs to feel that people have confidence in him at an early stage and needs to play to get experience. That doesn't happen in many important matches. I hope things change and [believe] a change of generation is necessary."
Prandelli will be helped by Gianni Rivera and Roberto Baggio, who recently joined the FIGC's technical staff. Both are former 'fantasisti' like Zola. "I think the idea is to bring in players who know how to play, so they can choose in favour of playing football and improving football," the former West Ham United FC coach said.
"It's very positive, especially when you consider the great results the German national team have had. I find it very important to focus on the sporting and football issues before any others. I hope they take the right decisions. Brave decisions are needed to improve the situation."
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