Thursday, 2 September 2010

Azzurri turn focus to Euro 2012

Italy are eager to banish memories of their nightmare FIFA World Cup as they head into Friday's opening UEFA Euro 2012 qualifier against Estonia in Tallinn.

The Azzurri were knocked out of the competition in South Africa after finishing bottom of their group with two points.

Under new coach Cesare Prandelli, who replaced Marcello Lippi at the helm in July, the Italians will be looking for their first win of the year in Estonia.

"We have to leave behind these negative thoughts," said Prandelli. "The thought of not having won a game this year could have a psychological weight on the team."

The Azzurri expect to clinch six points from their opening games, in Estonia and then at home to the Faroe Islands next Tuesday.

"If we lose these two games it would be almost a disaster," said Prandelli. "But there are no easy games and that's the truth."

Prandelli's first game in charge was a 1-0 friendly defeat by Ivory Coast in London last month.

"I'm calm," he said. "If I already felt the pressure you would have to probably take me tomorrow to hospital!"

Prandelli will be boosted by the news Antonio Cassano appears to have overcome a back problem after he sat out of training earlier this week.

Cassano is set to be included in the starting XI playing alongside Simone Pepe and Giampaolo Pazzini in attack.

"From a psychological point of view, Cassano is 100%," said Prandelli. "We will just evaluate during the game if he can play for 90 minutes."

Fiorentina striker Alberto Gilardino, who has not scored for the Azzurri since last October, will be relegated to the bench.

With goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon sidelined until December with a back injury, Palermo's Salvatore Sirigu will be between the posts.

Prandelli has warned his players to be ready for a battle.

"Estonia have four good players," said Prandelli. "They play in a small stadium and they will have a good atmosphere."

Tarmo Ruutli's side go into the encounter looking for their second straight win in qualifying after winning 2-1 at home to the Faroe Islands last month in the opening game of the group.

As well as Estonia and the Faroe Islands, Italy will also face Serbia, Northern Ireland and Slovenia in Group C.

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