| KRAKOW, Poland, June 11
KRAKOW, Poland, June 11 Italy's expectations
heading into their Euro 2012 opener against Spain were about as
high as diminutive frontman Antonio Di Natale but his goal and
their all-round play in the 1-1 draw have lifted spirits.
Italian media were pleased with Sunday's performance in
Gdansk after weeks of negative headlines ranging from
match-fixing allegations to injuries to poor displays in warm-up
"Beautiful Italy, we want you like that," ran Monday's front
page in Gazzetta dello Sport.
Down to earth coach Cesare Prandelli was not shouting from
the rooftops but the fact he was annoyed that a possible win was
prevented by Cesc Fabregas's quick equaliser spoke volumes.
Di Natale's opener on the hour came moments after he
replaced the ineffective Mario Balotelli and the Udinese striker
will now hope to stay in the side for the game against Croatia
in Poznan on Thursday.
"It's my best goal with the national team," he told
reporters after slotting home with aplomb following Andrea
Pirlo's superb run and pass.
"I finally put the ghost to bed because it was me four years
ago who missed one of the penalties against Spain."
That quarter-final exit at Euro 2008 after a 0-0 draw cost
coach Roberto Donadoni his job.
Prandelli will not get carried away and the jubilation of
some fans at matching the world and European champions for long
spells may have been tempered slightly by Croatia's impressive
3-1 dismissal of Ireland in the other Group C game afterwards.
Thursday's encounter will be awkward, especially as Croatia
play with two powerful strikers, unlike Spain who started with
It will be a difficult test for Italy's new formation with
three in defence and Emanuele Giaccherini at left wing back
having debuted against the Spanish.
Midfielder Daniele De Rossi started as a centre half and
found Spain's approach tricky to deal with.
"When we saw there was no striker in the Spain team we joked
about it. Initially I was a bit worried because a forward gives
you someone to mark," he said.
(Editing by Ken Ferris)