Prandelli plays down Italian optimism
© AFP

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli urged caution following his side's impressive qualification campaign for UEFA EURO 2012.

Despite facing a group including potential stumbling blocks such as Serbia and Slovenia, Italy remained unbeaten in ten matches, winning eight of those and qualifying for the finals in Poland and Ukraine with two games to spare.

They rounded off their Group C campaign last night with a resounding 3-0 defeat of Northern Ireland. It has led some in Italian football to claim the country is one of the best three teams in the world, but Prandelli does not agree.

I'm calm but I know too that we can improve a lot.
Cesare Prandelli, Italy coach

"We can say these things but we still have to be prepared for big tournaments and to be at the top of our game when we play the big teams," he said. "I'm calm but I know too that we can improve a lot."

Prandelli revealed that was why he made only a few changes to his preferred first team for a match that had nothing riding on it for either side. Prandelli made only four changes to his team and two of those were at full-back, where he has always changed things around anyway.

"We're a young team from this point of view and need to play a lot of minutes and a lot of games because we need to improve our teamwork. Then we will have a look at other players in other friendlies."

Praise for Giovinco
One of those players to whom Prandelli gave an opportunity was Parma forward Sebastian Giovinco, and the coach was pleased with the diminutive striker's performance.

"Giovinco played very well, in fact we could have looked more for him. His performance was excellent. He moved a lot but the team needed to look more for him when he went up alongside Antonio [Cassano]. For me he did very well, he ran a lot and tried to get forward."

The former Roma and Fiorentina coach did admit there was a lot more cause for optimism than when he took over the job in June 2010 following a disastrous FIFA World Cup™ campaign under Marcello Lippi.

"When we started there was a lot of pessimism and worry but football can be magical because you need only a few results to give calm and confidence to a team. We've improved a lot and the thing that really is interesting is not conceding a goal [against Northern Ireland] - that's the attitude of a big team."