Italy seeks victory for Euro 2012 spot

BY foxsports • September 5, 2011

Italy can qualify for the European Championship with a win over Slovenia on Tuesday, although coach Cesare Prandelli is still dissatisfied with his squad.

Italy struggled to beat the Faroe Islands 1-0 on Friday, with many of the Azzurri appearing out of condition due to a players' strike that postponed the opening weekend of Serie A.

''Evenings like those help you understand your limits and mistakes,'' Prandelli said. ''We're still not a solid squad.''

Still, Italy holds a commanding eight-point lead over Slovenia and Serbia in Group C and needs only two points from its remaining three matches to qualify for next year's tournament in Poland and Ukraine.

It was little more than a year ago that the Azzurri were embarrassed with a first-round elimination from the World Cup, after which Prandelli replaced Marcello Lippi.

Of the more than 50 teams in Euro 2012 qualifying, Italy has allowed the fewest goals - one.

The only player to score against the Azzurri in seven matches was Sergei Zenjov during Italy's 2-1 win over Estonia a year ago in its first qualifier under Prandelli.

Since Fabio Cannavaro retired, Inter Milan's Andrea Ranocchia has taken over as Giorgio Chiellini's partner at center back.

''Let's not talk too much about that, or watch and we could allow a goal Tuesday,'' Prandelli said.

Prandelli was more concerned with the attack, which struggled after Antonio Cassano's early goal over the Faroes.

''We had never faced a squad that kept 10 players in 36 meters (yards),'' Prandelli said. ''That's sort of like what happens when Serie A squads train with amateur sides on Thursdays. But what will happen when we fall behind a goal and have to come back against a big squad that hunkers down to defend a lead?

''We entered the area six times and passed the ball. But when you get in that position you've got to shoot, not give it up,'' Prandelli added.

Against Slovenia, Italy's attack will face a familiar face in Udinese goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, who stood out in a recent Champions League playoff loss to Arsenal.

Slovenia, one of Italy's northern neighbors, is still holding on to a slight chance of qualifying.

''It's not over yet,'' Slovenia coach Matjaz Kek said following a 2-1 loss at home to Estonia on Friday. ''This will be a huge effort for our team but we have nothing to lose.''

Italy beat Slovenia 1-0 in March in Ljubljana when Brazilian-born midfielder Thiago Motta scored on his competitive debut.

This match will be played at Florence's Artemio Franchi stadium, where Prandelli coached Fiorentina for five seasons before taking over the national team last year.

''Qualifying in Florence would be magical, especially for me,'' the coach said.

However, sour relations between Fiorentina fans and club captain Riccardo Montolivo - a key midfielder for the national team - as well as Prandelli, could make for a tense night.

The only lineup changes Prandelli appears to be considering are at fullback, with Mattia Cassani and Federico Balzaretti possibly replacing Christian Maggio and Domenico Criscito.


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