Italy coach Cesare Prandelli Prandelli gestures the Euro 2012 soccer championship Group C match between Italy and the Republic of Ireland in Poznan, Poland, Monday, June 18, 2012. Italy won 2-0. (Photo: AP)
Cesare Prandelli switched back to his preferred 4-4-2 formation in Monday's 2-0 Euro 2012 Group C defeat of Ireland which saw them through to the quarter-finals and then proclaimed himself happy with the team's balance in midfield.
Having played a 3-5-2 system in his previous two games, Prandelli went back to a diamond midfield and he was much happier than he had been following Italy's first two group games.
He wouldn't commit on which one will provide the way forward during the rest of the European Championship, but he did give a healthy hint.
"We have to try to understand many things but I was happy with the line of four, they did really well," he said.
"We got our confidence back but also the balance this midfield gave us. We must interpret the next game as we did this one.
"The quality always shows itself during the game but if we don't play with spirit and heart, it's difficult to win games."
Although he started with a 4-4-2, Prandelli switched to a five-man midfield with just one player up top after an hour.
And he said that was necessary to combat Ireland's direct style.
"We played a very aggressive team which pushed up high so we needed the extra man in midfield," said the coach.
"We couldn't play ping-pong because we've got different characteristics.
"It was a particular game, we gave ourselves a signal and that's important. We played in a way that we could put pressure on the long balls and we passed well."
In their previous two matches, 1-1 draws against both Spain and Croatia, Italy had suffered a dip in physical condition in the last 20 minutes but Prandelli insisted they were over that now.
"We didn't have a dip in physical condition, they played long balls and we didn't have time to have a dip," he said.
"We stayed in the game to the end. There was even a seven or eight minute period where we had three great chances to kill the game."
Prandelli was particularly keen to pay tribute to countryman Giovanni Trapattoni's Ireland for their fighting spirit, but also for the behaviour of their fans.
Italy's national anthem had been jeered by both Spanish and Croatian fans but the Irish clapped along to the beat, which Prandelli found spine-tingling.
"During the game they tried everything to get back into it to get some points," he said.
"They tried to equalise and even to win and this is the spirit of Trapattoni.
"I'm happy to have played a serious team. I've never had such a strong feeling during the national anthem, they have fantastic fans."
Antonio Cassano opened the scoring on 35 minutes with a flicked header from an Andrea Pirlo corner and Mario Balotelli netted the clincher late on despite John O'Shea's seeming attempts to swap shirts before the final whistle.
Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon paid tribute to the pair and also claimed the Azzurri had reached their minimum objective.
"It's a great sign (that the two strikers scored), we needed them. Despite playing very well before they hadn't scored yet. Today with the two goals everythig was easier," he said.
"For us it was important to win. We're staying at least until June 24th (for the quarter-finals) which was the minimum requirement we set ourselves."
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