After a disappointing showing at the last FIFA World Cup, Daniele De Rossi recognises Italy will have to hit the ground running to make an impact in Poland and Ukraine.
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A run of three successive defeats without a goal might not seem the ideal preparation for UEFA EURO 2012 but Daniele De Rossi is confident Italy, who qualified unbeaten under new coach Cesare Prandelli, will reproduce their best form when it really matters.
UEFA.com: The 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa didn't go well. How have Italy changed since then?
Daniele De Rossi: We've changed a lot since the World Cup and have learned a lot. In particular, the players are more experienced, even from that negative experience. But the team has also grown in two years of qualifying, which has made us more mature and self-assured. We have played very well, and the coach has put his stamp on us.
UEFA.com: What has Cesare Prandelli brought in that's new?
De Rossi: A new mentality in every possible aspect. The players have to strictly adhere to his ethical code. On a playing level, he is out on the pitch during training, he teaches and supports the idea that a team always plays the ball on the ground. He is not just tied to the result: of course he is, like every coach is, but he focuses more on our play and our qualities to be able to achieve a good result. He tries to get there that way.
UEFA.com: What was your initial reaction after the draw for UEFA EURO 2012 put you in a group with Croatia, the Republic of Ireland and Spain?
De Rossi: The first reaction was that, of course, we could have got an easier group, but then we could have got a more difficult one. It's a EURO, not a World Cup. There are only 16 teams, with all the strongest ones in Europe, so you can get a difficult group. Facing Spain especially is not a positive draw, but if you don't play them in the group, you'll play them in the quarter-finals, there are many possibilities. The EURO is a short, quick competition, where you have to play well right from the start.
UEFA.com: You lost to Spain on penalties in the quarter-finals four years ago; what are your memories of that night?
De Rossi: Looking back at the last EURO, and the match we played in Vienna, Spain have improved a lot. Right after that match, they found the strength to improve and the drive to win the tournament. We were evenly matched, they had more possession but not many chances, so it had to be decided by a penalty shoot-out, and I missed one. It was just a EURO to forget. We started badly but managed to reach the knockout stages, and were beaten by a very strong team. However I'm sure if we had won the penalty shoot-out we would have won the EURO. But both teams have changed since then.
UEFA.com: You'll be reunited with Giovanni Trapattoni when Italy play Ireland ...
De Rossi: To play against Trapattoni, and Ireland in general, is certainly a hard task because they're also a team that have improved a lot who have played at an incredible level. Trapattoni is a good opponent with all his experience as a coach, and then of course also as a connoisseur of our style of football. He knows us very well – the players, mentality and probably a few weaknesses – so it will be very difficult to play him.
UEFA.com: How far can Italy go? Is there a minimum objective?
De Rossi: To try and predict the group right now is impossible. Back at the World Cup we were doing that too, but no one took into account the fact that we might not make it through the group stage. You have to go step by step. If you want to talk about a positive outcome at the EURO we need to reach at least the semi-finals, and at that stage many things can happen that can change a result and decide a match. But we should definitely get through the group stage and then play a great quarter-final, where we could face important teams like France or England.