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Soccer: Prandelli's Italy out to put Spain on defensive

Azzurri face world champs in last friendly before names WC squad

04 March, 19:19
Soccer: Prandelli's Italy out to put Spain on defensive (By Paul Virgo) (ANSA) - Rome, March 4 - Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has said his side are aiming to put Spain on the defensive when they face the world and European champions on Wednesday.

The match in Madrid's Vicente Calderon Stadium is Prandelli's last chance to test his various options in a friendly before he names his squad for this summer's World Cup in Brazil, which runs June 12 to July 13.

"Tomorrow's match is risky, we haven't had long to prepare for it," Prandelli, whose squad only assembled on Monday after playing with their clubs at the weekend, told a press conference in the Spanish capital.

"But it's also an opportunity to give a display of personality. "I'll ask everyone to give the best they possibly can".

Although the current Italy side do not have as many world-class players as national teams of the past, Prandelli has said they are aiming to go all he way at this summer's World Cup.

Former Fiorentina boss Prandelli took over a national team in disarray after Italy's embarrassing group-stage exit at the 2010 World Cup. He has rejuvenated the side and managed to get them playing an attractive offensive style, so his ambitions for Brazil do not sound hollow.

The Azzurri have taken on Spain several times in recent years and, apart from the 4-0 defeat at the final of Euro 2012, they have performed credibly against the dominant force in international soccer at the moment.

They caused Spain plenty of problems in a group-stage match at Euro 2012 that ended 1-1 and in the semi-final of last year's Confederations Cup, which the Furia Roja won on penalties following a goalless draw.

Italy also beat the world champions, who play a hard to counter possession-hogging style similar to Barcelona's, 2-1 in a friendly in Bari in 2011.

"We'll have problems against a side who can pass the ball so well," said Prandelli.

"We'll try to attack them high up the field, as we did at the Confederations Cup, in order to force the world champions to defend". Italy will be without star striker Mario Balotelli, who has not been called up because of a shoulder injury.

Midfielder Daniele De Rossi is absent too as Prandelli dropped him in accordance with the national-team's code of conduct after TV cameras caught him punching an opponent in AS Roma's 0-0 draw with Inter Milan on Saturday.

The squad, however, does include Giorgio Chiellini after Prandelli's controversial decision to call up the defender even though he has not played for Juventus for three weeks because of a calf injury.

Juve boss Antonio Conte called Prandelli "impolite" for not phoning the Turin club before including the player - who was an unused substitute in his club's 2-0 win over AC Milan on Sunday - in his squad. Prandelli said Tuesday that the furore had left him feeling "empty". Italy have played Spain 32 times, winning 10 encounters, losing nine and drawing the others.

The last time Italy beat the Spaniards on their home turf was in 1949.