Italy were given a rousing welcome when they arrived in Krakow for the start of their UEFA EURO 2012 campaign. Given a heroes' send-off at Pisa, serenaded by scores of schoolchildren at John Paul II International Airport and cheered on by an almost full house at their first training session at the Municipal Stadium Krakow, the love shown by the Azzurri faithful home and away has not been lost on veteran goalkeeper De Sanctis, who now aims to repay their goodwill.
"There were something like 11,000 people who came to see our training session here," De Sanctis told UEFA.com. "It was a very warm welcome. We thought that we would be well-received, but not as well as that. It made us very happy and now we want to get some some good results so that we can stay in Krakow for a bit longer. We want to please our Italian fans, but also the people of Krakow, who might be cheering us on now."
Though the locals have been welcoming, the same generosity is unlikely to be shown by Italy's first adversaries, Spain, but neither will the Azzurri be opening their arms to Vicente del Bosque's side, whom De Sanctis insists are not to be feared. "Spain have a great side," said the 35-year-old, who spent the 2007/08 season at Sevilla FC. "They won the last EURO, and the last World Cup, so we are talking about 23 very good players who can play a very fast and technical game.
"But we just need to be extremely well-organised within the team, and show our fighting spirit. That's what we are aiming for, and we shouldn't forget the talent we have. We have to focus on the qualities. We, too, have great technical skills and great players in our team. So all this makes us confident, not just for the match against Spain, but also to play a good EURO."
The Azzurri enjoyed an impressive qualifying campaign in which they remained undefeated and conceded just two goals, and although recent friendly results have been disappointing, the SSC Napoli goalkeeper and international understudy to captain Gianluigi Buffon, insists Italy, who were only eliminated from UEFA EURO 2008 by Sunday's adversaries on penalties, are a different animal when it comes to tournament situations.
"We have done great things over the last two years. Unfortunately, we haven't managed to score for the last three matches, and we have lost them all. That has made us reflect a bit, across the whole team, but Italy alway give their best in competitions proper, and we are focusing on bouncing back and playing a leading role in the tournament."
©UEFA.com 1998-2013. All rights reserved.