| KRAKOW, Poland, June 6
KRAKOW, Poland, June 6 The age-old Italian
traits of being strong in defence and grabbing the key goal when
it matters disappeared at the World Cup two years ago and they
are in danger of vanishing again as Euro 2012 approaches.
An unbeaten qualification campaign has been undermined by
three defeats and no goals in their last three friendlies while
injuries and a possible change in formation come at just the
wrong time before Sunday's Group C opener against holders Spain.
Defensive linchpin Giorgio Chiellini, one of the few to
emerge with any credit from their 2010 World Cup group-stage
exit as champions, tried to sound positive on Wednesday but his
happy aura from Juventus's undefeated Serie A season has gone.
He clung to the fact that 13,000 fans turned up for their
first training session at Polish league side Cracovia's tight,
atmospheric ground to "give us a boost". He also clung to the
fact that Italy are Italy.
"We have to recognise that we have had a drop off in
results. But I don't think the Italy of the last two years has
disappeared. The idea that we have 'disappeared' is a bit over
the top," Chiellini told a news conference.
"We know we meet the team that has made history in the last
four years. With great respect we will try to play our match
knowing that even for them it will be difficult to take on
Spain beat Italy on penalties in the quarter-finals of Euro
2008 but the Azzurri defeated Vicente Del Bosque's men 2-1 in a
friendly last year.
Coach Cesare Prandelli is considering utilising midfielder
Daniele De Rossi in a new-three man defence after playing his
usual four at the back in the 3-0 friendly debacle against
Russia last week. Centre back Andrea Barzagli is also injured.
Italian pundits are worried that the potential change is a
knee-jerk reaction and that two years of hard work are being
thrown away but Chiellini did his best to defend Prandelli.
"Still there are a few days to try it, then the coach will
decide the tactics," he said.
"De Rossi is a great player. He has all the class,
experience and character to do well, also in that role. In our
clubs we are used to changing formations. We shouldn't give too
much importance to this change, other issues are more crucial."
A recent deadly earthquake in Italy's Emilia Romagna region,
which meant an important Euro warmup with minnows Luxembourg was
cancelled, led Chiellini to start a fundraising drive for the
"Let's not forget them, they need us," said the 27-year-old,
who also visited the Auschwitz concentration camp with the rest
of the squad on Wednesday.
"It is difficult to find words to describe it."
(Editing by Justin Palmer)