Italy's Prandelli mulling over Di Natale-Balotelli switch

AFP, Tuesday 12 Jun 2012

Azure need a victory to ensure they enter into the final group game against Ireland with their destiny firmly in hand

Antonio Di Natale
Italy's Mario Balotelli, right, is substituted by Antonio Di Natale during the Euro 2012 soccer championship Group C match between Spain and Italy in Gdansk, Poland, Sunday, June 10, 2012. (Photo: AP)

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has admitted he is considering dropping errant forward Mario Balotelli in favour of Antonio Di Natale for Thursday's Euro Group C clash with Croatia.

Italy need a victory to ensure they tackle Ireland in their final group game with their destiny in their own hands.

They began with a positive 1-1 draw against world champions Spain but Croatia then beat the Irish 3-1 to move top of the group.

Failure to beat Croatia would mean Italy needing to beat Ireland in their final game in Poznan and hoping the result between Spain and Croatia does not cost them.

The importance of this match has not been lost on Prandelli who says he will change some things.

"What counts in the choices is the nervous and physical sate of the players," he said.

"The next training sessions will be real ones and those will show me [who's in form], as will scientific data.

"This is will be the decisive match of the group. The idea is not to change too much so that we have consistency.

"It won't be easy, it will be decided by details."

In the first match against Spain, Prandelli abandoned the four-man defence that conceded the least goals of any team in qualifying and reached the finals with two games to spare.

Instead he opted for a back three with wing-backs Christian Maggio and Emanuele Giaccherini working tirelessly on the flanks.

Prandelli has yet to decide what to do in his next match but says much will depend on the fitness of his players.

But he also admitted he hadn't decided who would start up front.

"I don't know yet, we will try to understand who used the most energy," he said.

"Before thinking about how to tackle Croatia we have to study them well, it will take a day or two to do so.

"When we decide on how to tackle this team, we will decide on the forwards.

"We have to exploit those who are in good form.

"In [two] days we will play against a very different team [to Spain], they will put us in difficulty and it's perhaps even harder because they are unpredictable.

"They can change their system from one half to another so we need to prepare with a lot of attention."

Prandelli sung the praises of Di Natale, the goalscorer against Spain, while speaking of Balotelli's need to think more about helping the tam rather than trying to win games on his own.

It suggested a change up front is afoot, but Prandelli did offer some encouragement to the 21-year-old Manchester City forward.

"When a player knows he's messed up he needs to know that he has another opportunity that next time he can do the right thing," said Prandelli referring to a chance Balotelli blew against Spain due to his indecision.

Prandelli also crticised Balotelli for not getting behind the Spain defence while praising Di Natale for doing exactly that, not only with the goal he scored but wth another chance as well.

The pressure is on Italy as they play opponents with two more points than them.

And Croatia coach Slaven Bilic says his side only need one more win to reach the quarter-finals.

"We have three points, and we're top of the group," said Bilic.

"One win would be enough to go to the quarter-finals. We cannot fly in the championship, but let's go step by step.

"We respect all of our opponents. We have no fear against anyone. Spain and Italy are favourites in our group, but I still think we are able to beat one of them."

Should they do that, they will be in the last eight while Italy would need to beat Ireland in their final game and hope Spain slip up somewhere as well.

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