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Prandelli: Italy Must Beat Croatia Now

Italy boss Cesare Prandelli says that his side must beat Croatia in Thursday’s Euro 2012 game.

The Azzurri started their tournament with a 1-1 draw against Spain, but Croatia’s 3-1 win over the Republic of Ireland has given them an early advantage in Group C.

“It will be a game of details, a match that we will have to win at all costs,” the Azzurri boss stated on Monday afternoon.

“The game against Croatia will be the most decisive of the group. Now we’ll study them, we’ll get to know them, but they changed a few things in their last match…

“Croatia are a more dangerous side now as they are more unpredictable. They can change their play, even from one half to another. We have always thought that Croatia were a real side.”

Italy have been widely praised for their performance on Sunday, but Mario Balotelli didn’t shine as expected and Antonio Di Natale, his second-half replacement, gave the Azzurri the lead.

“I’m satisfied with Antonio Cassano and Balotelli, even if they could have been sharper,” Prandelli continued.

“Balotelli is a 22-year-old kid, he’s probably on the road to finding his maturity.

“What I ask of him is simplicity, he shouldn’t think that he has to win us the game on his own every time he touches the ball. He’s feeling a bit of pressure on him, but that shouldn’t halt him.

“I left Di Natale out of the first team for two years because I wanted to rejuvenate the squad, but I always kept my eye on him.

“Di Natale instead of Balotelli against Croatia? Let us first understand how to take on Croatia and then we’ll decide. I’ll evaluate all of the players, but I don’t think I’ll change too much.”

That statement suggests that Prandelli will stick with the 3-5-2 system that sees midfielder Daniele De Rossi used as a centre-back.

“De Rossi was extraordinary, but he has to get a bit further forward to help his teammates in the middle of the pitch,” the former Fiorentina man noted. “I was expecting that as he is really a midfielder.

“Overall, we did well against Spain, especially in the first half where we created a number of opportunities. However, we haven’t sorted out our problems yet.”