Cesare Prandelli recognises that his side must pass a stern examination when they take on Spain in the UEFA EURO 2012 final, but steadfastly believes Italy can emerge triumphant. "We mustn't fear them," he said. "We are here on merit and we will give it everything."
After receiving another standing ovation as he entered the rechristened Sala Prandelli for his final press conference at Casa Azzurri, the Italy coach expressed his satisfaction at masterminding the downfall of Joachim Löw's highly rated Germany side with a 2-1 victory in Warsaw last night.
"We are very proud to have come so far" said the 54-year-old, who first expressed birthday wishes to Gioregio Napoletano, the Italian President who turned 86 today.
"It makes you especially proud to represent you country, but when you're abroad I think you understand even more keenly than the people back home exactly what it means to fly the flag. Last night we had a game plan in place and the players executed it to perfection. The guys were extraordinary, we had very little time in training but we exploited what little time we had really well."
Though he admitted his players were exhausted after their efforts in reaching Sunday's final in Kyiv, Prandelli was optimistic about Italy's prospects of overcoming a free-flowing Spain side whose playing style he holds in the highest regard. "I'm hoping to prepare the team well even if we only have one day to do it. Just as we did with Germany we need to try to find their weak points and work on them.
"It won't be easy because Spain have been playing together for years, they won the last EURO and World Cup, and they are in the final again. This means they aren't just technically good, but they also have great moral and personal attributes that make them an example to us all. But we are here too. We have grown as the tournament has gone on."
The Azzurri played Spain in their opening match of the campaign, sharing a spirited 1-1 draw with Vicente del Bosque's side. Then, Antonio Di Natale gave them the lead which was quickly cancelled out by Cesc Fàbregas, and Prandelli believes his players have come on in leaps and bounds since that Group C fixture in Gdansk three weeks ago. "We have improved because since then we've been able to work in the field, work on our physical fitness and, psychologically speaking, now we're now a real side.
"We had a great first half against Spain and we must do that again," recalled Prandelli. "We must keep our balance, that's the secret. If we can distribute our resources in the right way then we have a chance. We need to show the right spirit but we must also have the right ideas. But it's not just about keeping our shape, it's also about attitude. We musn't fear them, we are here on merit, and now we have the desire to take it down to the wire and give it everything we have to win."
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