After conceding just twice during their unbeaten qualifying campaign, a rejuvenated Italy head to Poland and Ukraine hoping for a second European crown to add to their 1968 success
ROME: Cesare Prandelli may not be a household name outside Italy and some may even find it surprising that the quiet and stylish former Juventus midfielder even occupies the position at all.
He does not have the high-profile of top-class Italian coaches like Ireland’s Giovanni Trapattoni, Manchester City’s Roberto Mancini, former England boss Fabio Cappello or even Paris Saint-Germain’s Carlo Ancelotti.
Nor does he have a dazzling resume, having only won a second division title with Verona in the 1998-99 season.
But what he does possess is style, class and professionalism — the same qualities that marked him out as a player for the Old Lady of Turin and Atalanta.
As a coach, the stylishly turned-out Prandelli has notably introduced a strict disciplinary code of ethics to the national team set-up, even excluding star players from the squad for bad behaviour or suspensions.
More importantly for Italy, though, he has brought a measure of calm and understatement to his role, as the Azzurri seek to banish the disappointment of failing to get through the group stage at the last World Cup after winning in 2006.
Prandelli has always insisted that his team is a work in progress, although he has not been slow to talk them up when necessary.
“I remember at the beginning of this adventure, critics said we don’t have any more defenders but we have the best defensive record in the qualification phase,” he said.
He is a popular figure not just in the dressing room but also among Italian football’s top brass.
Four years ago it was poorly-kept secret that Roberto Donadoni needed to reach the semi-finals to keep his job. He fell short by just one round, when Italy were eliminated by eventual winners Spain in the quarter-finals.
But Italian football federation president Giancarlo Abete has imposed no such conditions on Prandelli this time round.
At a glance
The Azzurri have endured a turbulent period since claiming a fourth World Cup in 2006, but Cesare Prandelli has brought stability and fresh impetus since his summer 2010 appointment. He took the reins after a forgettable defence of their global title in South Africa. Yet Italy, edged out on penalties by Spain in Euro 2008 quarter-finals, head to Poland and Ukraine hopeful of a second continental crown after striding through qualifying unbeaten.