ROME (Reuters) - Italian football has long had a chip on its shoulder, blaming supposedly sinister outside forces whenever the national team fails in a major tournament.
Such histrionics are unlikely, however, under coach Cesare Prandelli who, in addition to rebuilding the team in his two years in charge, has imposed a strict code of ethics.
Known for his slicked-back hair and purple Puffa jacket, the 54-year-old coach has adopted a zero tolerance policy to violent and unethical behaviour.
Daniele De Rossi and Mario Balotelli, both in the Euro 2012 squad, were previously barred from selection while serving club suspensions for misbehaviour and the former Fiorentina boss said he will do the same again.
Second division defender Simone Farina of Gubbio was even invited to train with the team after telling police he turned down 200,000 euros (162,800 pounds) to fix an Italian Cup match against Cesena.
Prandelli praised the player’s “courage and extraordinary inner strength”.
The coach now needs some of those qualities himself as yet another match-fixing scandal has enveloped the Italian domestic game, forcing him to drop left back Domenico Criscito from his Euro squad after the defender was told by police he was under investigation.
Prandelli has though shown the backbone to nurture ‘difficult’ players such as Antonio Cassano.
The talented, but volatile, Cassano - who just made the squad after recovering from minor heart surgery - was given an extended run by Prandelli after being ignored by predecessor Marcelo Lippi and rewarded the coach with some excellent displays.
Prandelli has had a tricky task in his first two years, having had to rebuild from the ashes of a disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign, but he managed to steer the Italians unbeaten through a qualifying group also featuring Serbia and Slovenia.
He had no hesitation in calling up ‘oriundi’, foreign-born players whose selection is always a hot potato, naming Brazilian-born Thiago Motta in his Euro squad.
A former midfielder, whose playing career included six seasons with Juventus and two stints at Atalanta, Prandelli made his name as a coach in five campaigns with Fiorentina.
Having taken over in 2005, he guided the relegation strugglers to fourth and a place in the Champions League qualifying round, only for them to be docked 15 points in the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal.
Undeterred, he took them to the Champions League twice in a row, a controversial away goals defeat by Bayern Munich denying them a quarter-final place in 2009-10.
By the time he replaced Lippi, he was the longest-serving coach Fiorentina had ever had.
Reporting By Brian Homewood; Editing by Mark Meadows