Simone Perrotta feels world champions Italy have the "strength and self-awareness" to prevail again this summer - and is confident of playing an active role.
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Simone Perrotta surprised many an Italian sports writer when he became an ever-present starter in Marcello Lippi's 2006 FIFA World Cup-winning side two years ago. Now it seems he must prove himself all over again to those who believe he will be omitted from the starting lineup against the Netherlands.
Every day the Italian dailies are crammed with theories and speculation surrounding the Azzurri's probable XI to face Marco van Basten's Oranje on 9 June, but while they cannot decide on whether Roberto Donadoni will deploy a 4-3-3 or a 4-5-1, they all appear to concur on one thing - that Perrotta will not start on opening day. However, the energetic 30-year-old believes the 'giornalisti' have got it wrong and history would appear to be on his side. "People were saying that I wouldn't play two years ago in Germany but then the coach played me in the first game and I stayed in midfield throughout the campaign," he said. "I hope that the same thing happens here but either way I feel very cool about it."
If Donadoni does decide to go with a 4-5-1 formation, Perrotta would certainly fancy his chances of starting, having thrived in an attacking midfield role for his club over the last two seasons. Furthermore, Perrotta is surrounded by three AS Roma colleagues who are equally familiar with the system: Daniele De Rossi, Alberto Aquilani and Christian Panucci. "To recreate the Roma formula exactly would be too difficult to do here," said Perrotta. "It took us a long time to get there with Roma and it was a long learning curve. I don't think I've been left out of the equation, though. I can play in a midfield with two wingers. My characteristics are well suited to our tactics and I'm ready to give my all."
The last time Italy played the Netherlands was in the semi-finals of UEFA EURO 2000™, when the Azzurri won through on penalties. That Amsterdam encounter passed Perrotta by, however, as he was then serving his country in an altogether different capacity. "I don't remember much about it because I was doing my military service," he explained. "But team-mates who were there said that it was hugely satisfying to win in that way - going down to ten men against eleven early on. But then there was disappointment of losing in the final."
‘Strength and self-awareness'
The ghosts of that painful 2-1 golden-goal defeat were laid to rest two years ago when Italy beat France in the World Cup final and, according to Perrotta, a winning mentality now prevails in the Azzurri camp. "We know that we have a very tough group stage awaiting us but we are ready," he said. "Compared to two years ago we are calmer because winning the World Cup has given us strength and self-awareness. We know that we will have to play a lot of good sides in this European Championship but we also know our worth."