Though Cesare Prandelli was pleased with Italy's opening draw against Spain, he refused to get too carried away with his side's spirited display, stressing the menace posed by their next opponents. "The Croatia match will be decisive," he said. "They will cause us more problems than Spain."
Prandelli always comes across as an unruffled figure; someone who views good and bad results with the same degree of temperance. Unsurprisingly then, though he was happy with holding the European champions to 1-1 draw, he was quick to point out that you are only as good as your next game.
"I only accept praise in moderation because it'll be a problem if we suddenly think we've solved all our problems," he told a press conference in Krakow yesterday. "If we don't prepare properly, we'll be in trouble. I'm not worried, but I need to tell my players that although we played a good match, it could have turned in a second. We could have scored but so could Fernando Torres and if he had, we would be talking in a very different way."
Given that Croatia won their first game on Sunday, the Azzurri cannot afford to slip up against the Group C leaders, whom Prandelli rates as even tougher than their last opposition. "Croatia will be a completely different proposition and I think they will cause us more problems than Spain," he said of a team Italy have yet to beat in three meetings at major tournaments. "They are unpredictable and they can completely change from one match to the next. We will have to be even more prepared than we were for Spain."
What will concern the former ACF Fiorentina coach most is the more physical threat posed by Croatia. The 3-5-2 formation just about held out against Spain's quick-passing game, but whether it is the right approach to take against Slaven Bilić's men remains to be seen. "I will have to study Croatia closely but my colleagues have told me they are a proper side. I need to analyse the scientific data we have collated to assess our players' fitness and I will make my decision from there, but in order to develop consistency I don't want to change too much."
No dramatic changes then. As ever with Prandelli, everything in moderation.
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