Chiellini has simple crisis-advice for Italy
As far as Giorgio Chiellini is concerned, maintaining focus amid Italy's latest match-fixing scandal is as simple as fending off a ferocious forward.
The Azzurri have been in the spotlight for the past 10 days, since the latest wave of arrests in the scandal and a media focus on two members of the squad.
Police entered the team's training center outside Florence last week to inform defender Domenico Criscito that he was under investigation, and Criscito was then dropped from the squad. Another defender, Leonardo Bonucci, is also reportedly under investigation.
Then came the news that standout goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon had his banking records examined on suspicion he made large bets. Buffon has not been placed under investigation and is not accused of any wrongdoing, but the revelations still shook the Azzurri camp.
Chiellini is a club teammate of Buffon and Bonucci at Juventus, and Juventus coach Antonio Conte was also notified that he is being investigated for alleged wrongdoing while in charge of Siena in 2010-2011.
''You can't deny that there has been a series of attacks over the past week, and they were more or less fair,'' Chiellini said Wednesday. ''There has been an attempt to destabilize us. But we're used to this, because we've been trained to cope with that type of pressure. Our only response should come on the pitch.''
Italy's top defender also proclaimed himself fully fit again, four days before the Azzurri's European Championship opener against defending and world champion Spain.
Chiellini sat out Italy's final friendly before the Euros, a 3-0 loss to Russia last week, with a thigh injury. He was injured in Juventus' final match of the Serie A season, a week after the Turin side clinched the league title.
''I'm OK,'' Chiellini said. ''Fortunately, it wasn't a very serious injury, so I've had plenty of time to recuperate. There's no worry, I'm just very anxious start this adventure. For all of us, arriving yesterday marked a change in mood, for the start of a big event.''
With the scandal raging back home, Italy's arrival in Poland on Tuesday almost seemed like a relief for the squad. Some 10,000 fans showed up at the team's first training session.
''We were very surprised by the welcome in the stadium yesterday,'' Chiellini said. ''It motivates us.''
With Fabio Cannavaro having retired from the national team after Italy's first-round elimination from the 2010 World Cup, Chiellini has taken over as the defense's leader.
Having switched from center back to left back under Conte's three-man defense this season, Chiellini played a major part as Juve went undefeated in the league. Now Prandelli is also considering switching from four men to three in his backline.
''I don't think (Prandelli) has chosen 100 percent yet,'' Chiellini said. ''For our part, though, we're convinced in what we're doing either way. We're used to changing and trying every type of formation with our clubs. ... It's not like we've never played that style. The most important thing is to have a solid idea of how you want to play.''
With Andrea Barzagli injured, Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi could be thrust into central defense.
''He has all the class and experience to do well in that position,'' Chiellini said.