Prandelli looking to faze Spaniards
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has decided to play without an out-and-out striker in the hope of taking Spain out of their comfort zone in Bari on Wednesday.
The 2006 world champions host the team that succeeded them in South Africa last year in a mouth-watering friendly clash.
And Prandelli sprung a surprise by picking a team with two deep-lying forwards but no traditional number nine striker and no wingers.
AC Milan's Antonio Cassano will partner Villarreal's Giuseppe Rossi up front.
"This way, with Cassano next to Rossi we won't give our opponents a point of reference compared to what we would have done with a centre-forward such as (Giampaolo) Pazzini.
"Given that we don't have wingers, instead we want to make the most of our central midfielders' ability to get in behind the defence.
"Antonio knows at this time it's an important match in front of his people (he's from Bari)."
When Italy last played in Bari, then coach Marcello Lippi was roundly jeered for not having even picked Cassano in his squad.
Cassano may well be more deserving of a place in the team now than he was then but Prandelli shied away from joining Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas in describing the 28-year-old as a phenomenon.
"Players are generous in their comparisons. A phenomenon is someone who makes a difference for 10 years," said Prandelli.
"Then there are players who get described as a phenomenon because with one touch they can decide a match."
Prandelli acknowledged that Spain are the favourites given their recent record and fluidity in playing together, but he insisted his team would at least keep things competitive.
"They've been playing together for a long time whereas we're trying to reach their level in terms of intuition and fluidity," he said.
"When you play against the world champions there's always a chance (of getting thrashed) but we believe we can play well, with courage and character.
"It's impossible to recreate the Spanish model, like Barcelona, it's a matter of sporting culture.
"In Italy only the result counts but we want to get results through playing well."
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