Italy coach Cesare Prandelli called on his players to beat England in their FIFA World Cup™ opener in the hope of beginning a campaign that has been "designed" to see the Azzurri reach the Final in Brazil.
On the first day of a ten-day training camp put into place to allow Prandelli to trim his provisional 30-man squad, the national team coach said he would likely not name his final 23-man travelling party until the "very last minute". But Prandelli was firm about the four-time champions' ambitions in Brazil: beating England in their opener on 14 June in Manaus to send them on their way to what would be a seventh appearance in a World Cup Final.
"It will be important to take three points from our first game and in the process beat a strong team," said Prandelli, who stressed, however, that world champions "Spain lost their opening match", to Switzerland, at South Africa 2010. Italy, who won the last of their four World Cups in 2006, suffered an embarrassing first-round exit from the competition four years ago.
After having reached the UEFA EURO 2012 final under Prandelli against all expectations, hopes are high that Italy can help erase the memories of their 2010 debacle. Prandelli's men will play England, Costa Rica and Uruguay in Group D in Brazil and could, if they advance past the second round, face a quarter-final clash against tournament co-favourites Spain or Brazil.
We want to get to the Final. Because this squad has been designed with getting to the Final in mind.
Picking Prandelli's final 23
But Prandelli is defiant: "We want to get to the Final. Because this squad has been designed with getting to the Final in mind. Everyone here is brimming with enthusiasm, and that's pleasing. We all have to remember we're preparing for the World Cup."
Prandelli has rejuvenated his team, leaving veterans Luca Toni and Francesco Totti at home as the likes of Ciro Immobile, Mattia Destro and Lorenzo Insigne bid to convince the coach they are worthy of a place. Prandelli has a big selection dilemma regarding striker Giuseppe Rossi, who is fighting for full fitness having only recently returned to action following a four-month injury lay-off.
He is reportedly in a duel with veteran Parma striker Antonio Cassano for a coveted place among the strikers, with Milan marksman Mario Balotelli already assured of his place. Prandelli, however, said he would reserve the right to "wait until the last minute" to make his final decisions.
"I have a fair idea" on the final 23, said Prandelli when asked if he already had an idea of who could travel to Brazil. "But I consider it a pleasure being forced to wait until the last minute before making my final decisions: it means the players have come here with plenty of enthusiasm."
Prandelli also refused to be drawn on which tactical formations he would deploy, adding: "We won't be rigid when it comes to tactical formations. We have the players and resources to adapt to each game and situation."