Cesare Prandelli may have sung the praises of Pablo Osvaldo after his first international goals secured a point for Italy in their opening FIFA World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria but the coach is demanding more from his side against Malta on Tuesday.
The Azzurri were a goal down in Sofia on Friday when Osvaldo scored twice in the final ten minutes of the first half to give the visitors the lead. However, Georgi Milanov's equaliser meant the UEFA EURO 2012 finalists had to settle for a share of the spoils and Prandelli knows they must improve to qualify from a tricky Group B which also includes Armenia, Czech Republic and Denmark.
"We were below par," he said. "
In football it's quite easy to quickly forget the things you think you have learnt. We need more quality against Malta. We are Italy and we need to find our football identity again as soon as possible. I'm not just thinking in terms of tactics but our usual spirit. If we don't then soon we will start to have something to be worried about."
There were some positives for Prandelli, though, not least the performance of AS Roma striker Osvaldo in just his third international appearance. "I called him into the squad because I thought he could make the difference," said the 55-year-old coach, who was already familiar with the player from his time in charge at ACF Fiorentina.
"I said from the beginning that he is in good form and his physical freshness was visible from the start in Sofia. He worked hard for the team, he didn't only have goals on his mind. He is a modern striker, who sacrificed himself for the good of the team and was rewarded with the goals."
For Osvaldo, there were mixed emotions despite opening his Azzurri account. "I am happy to have scored the two goals on what was a memorable night for me but the result was not the one we wanted, so I am not entirely happy," said the 26-year-old, who has also started the Serie A campaign in fine form with impressive strikes against Calcio Catania and FC Internazionale Milano, the former an early goal of the season contender.
I usually score beautiful goals, these two against Bulgaria were not as beautiful but they are worth just as much," he added. "I dedicated them to my daughter Victoria. Every time she goes to church she says a prayer and lights a candle for me. She called me on the eve of the game asking me for a goal, so these two are for her."
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