Italy's sorrow was acute but rather than wallow in self-pity, coach Cesare Prandelli reflected on his side's crushing UEFA EURO 2012 final defeat by Spain with pragmatism. He has wasted no time in constructing ambitious plans ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
The 54-year-old has named an experimental squad, including 12 uncapped players, for Wednesday's friendly against England in Berne, Switzerland. "The idea is to start planning for the next two years, so we have an idea of the young players who will be ready to step up to the mark when called upon," he explained. "That's why the match against England is so important for us."
A team once steeped in defensive discipline has been reinvented with an emphasis on expansive football, a road Prandelli is eager to continue along. "We want to follow the same path we took during EURO, now that we have gained credibility for our style," he said. "We begin a new season with great enthusiasm. I have seen in the eyes of the new players that they are eager to start in the correct manner."
Not content with their invigorating makeover, Prandelli is striving for perfection, intent on converting the Azzurri's possession into goals. "We want to achieve good results by playing good football," he said. "However, I think we have to be more clinical in attack. That's why I will be focusing my attention on the forwards in Berne. We did well at EURO but now it's time to raise the bar and improve in terms of scoring goals."
Young forwards Mattia Destro (21), Stephan El Shaarawy (19), Manolo Gabbiadini (20) and Diego Fabbrini (22) have all been handed opportunities to showcase their goalscoring touch; Mario Balotelli (22) misses out with an eye infection. "We hoped to have him for this game but unfortunately it was not the case," said Prandelli. "I want to give him a very important role in this team, and he will have to be ready to take this kind of responsibility."
AC Milan full-back Mattia De Sciglio and Paris Saint-Germain FC midfielder Marco Verratti, both 19, conclude Prandelli's plethora of promising talent. "It was a great joy to receive the call from the national team," said Verratti, a player who may eventually succeed the seemingly irreplaceable Andrea Pirlo. "He's always mentioned in reference to me and I will give everything if I replace him against England," he added.
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