Prandelli: Uruguay my biggest challenge
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has labelled tomorrow's friendly against Uruguay as his biggest challenge since taking over the national team last year. The Azzurri go into the encounter at Rome's Stadio Olimpico on the back of Friday's 2-0 win over Poland.
"From here until EURO 2012 I want the team to give continuity to our performances," Prandelli said in today's press conference. "I want the players to repeat the positives that we have seen in previous games. This is the most significant test since I've coached the national team."
Uruguay are on a 12-match unbeaten run, during which they captured the Copa America title in the summer. And La Celeste, coached by Oscar Tabarez, also beat Chile 4-0 on Friday in 2014 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying. "Tabarez has always been considered a maestro," Prandelli said. "He has an incredible elegance.
"Uruguay have very good players, including (Napoli striker) Edinson Cavani. He has improved a lot and has become an important player. Cavani has always been generous while remaining lucid in front of goal. He is the maximum a coach could ask for."
Prandelli is set to hand Roma's Daniel Osvaldo his first start for Italy. Osvaldo will partner Manchester City's Mario Balotelli in attack. "I want to evaluate certain characteristics of the strikers we have," he said. "From Mario and Daniel I expect them to score, but also once we lose possession for them to press."
"I want Mario and Osvaldo to make sure they are the first ones to drop back when they lose the ball," Prandelli said. "In the modern game, you have to press the opposition as soon as they try to attack you."
Prandelli believes tomorrow's game could be ideal for Balotelli after the 21-year-old scored his first goal for the Azzurri on Friday and set up another one. "I think this game will be easier for him because he already proved against Poland that he can make a difference," he said.
Cavani, meanwhile, expects a thrilling game. "I think we are two very different national teams but we both have very important world-class players," he said. "It will be a beautiful game. You can see that the work we've done over the years is being recognised around the world. It's something that we are proud of and that we owe Tabarez. Since he took over the national team he set out clear rules that are to be respected and we are doing very well."
Cavani is set to partner Liverpool forward Luis Suarez, who scored all four of his team's goals against Chile. Uruguay are without the injured Diego Forlan, Abel Hernandez, Alvaro Fernandez and Walter Gargano.