Cesare Prandelli already knows his first-choice Italy XI for UEFA EURO 2012 but, after naming an unfamiliar-looking side to face the United States on Wednesday night, the coach insisted he needs to be "prepared for every eventuality".
Prandelli took the unusual step of naming his team on the eve of the encounter at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa, and it is a lineup including Torino FC defender Angelo Ogbonna, who made his 13-minute international debut against Poland in November, plus a strike force of Alessandro Matri and Sebastian Giovinco, who have ten Italy caps and one international goal between them.
"I already know my first XI in my head, but I want to show consistency not just in theory but also in practice," said Prandelli. "I've been saying for months that we need to be prepared for every eventuality. I don't know what might happen to my first-choice players between now and the end of the season, but if something happens I have to be ready. I need to be prepared for a second and a third alternative."
Prandelli, whose charges will meet Spain, Croatia and the Republic of Ireland in Group C at UEFA EURO 2012, admitted that his hand has been forced by injuries to key strikers including Giuseppe Rossi, Antonio Cassano and Antonio Di Natale. The enforced absence for disciplinary reasons of Mario Balotelli and Pablo Osvaldo has played a role too, but Prandelli is a dab hand at nurturing strikers, having brought the best out of Genoa CFC's former Italian international Alberto Gilardino while at Parma FC and ACF Fiorentina.
"I think Matri and Giovinco will be able to dovetail well," he said. "Matri has qualities that help give the side depth. He can also go wide and give the team space. Giovinco still needs to improve his ability to find space between the midfield and attack and get into the area more because we know he can score goals, but they are strikers who will give us great mobility."
Thiago Motta will play in the free role at the tip of the diamond – an experiment which "won over the players" in this morning's practice session behind closed doors – with Andrea Pirlo at the base, but there was no suggestion that this is an encounter the coach is taking lightly.
"This match is very important. Firstly,
everyone needs to understand that, ; secondly, respect must be paid to the opposition as well as the paying supporters; and, thirdly, by playing in a certain way, it’s important to know that if we ever find ourselves in trouble, there are people we know we can turn to.
when you wear the Azzurri shirt, a friendly is not a friendly
"There are players like Ogbonna and Fabio Borini who are new to the scene who could play a part at the EURO. We're still a growing a side but we're aiming to be in a position where we can become a very, very good one in a short space of time ‒ and we certainly have the potential."
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