Italy have always taken pride in ‘furbo’, or smart and sly football. Inured to controversies in major tournaments, especially when a trophy of high-calibre is at stake, they have a reputation for ignominies and shameful conducts on and off the pitch — inundated with diving tactics, apathetic and cagey approaches in the early stages of the competition. But not any more. Coach Cesare Prandelli wants a departure from the past.
Prandelli is determined to change the complexion of Italian football and has implemented a strict code of conduct for all players. Prandelli’s message is quite straightforward: players with poor disciplinary record and lack of commitment will not be taken to Brazil. And those travelling will have to ensure they stay away from the ‘temptations of outside world’ and remain focussed on the task at hand.
For a team that is never far away from a controversy, it should be hardly surprising that Prandelli has taken such a stern step. And not surprisingly, it has stirred up a controversy in his homeland. But for Prandelli, there’s no backtracking on his philosophy. “We’ve the quality; the players are all very good. All we lack is discipline and I will ensure they behave like good boys,” he had said.
The Azzurri are expected to be playing in heavy humidity during the tournament, particularly during their opening match against England, which is set to take place on the edge of the Amazon rainforest in Manaus.
And they’ve tried to reproduce the conditions of not just Manaus, but also of Recife and Natal. Inside a hut at their training base, the temperature is set around 32-33 degrees Centigrade, with a humidity level of around 70 per cent. The players are made to work on treadmills and exercise bicycles and their cardiac levels monitored.
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There will also be an organised approach to preventing mosquito bites, while there could also be vaccinations for the likes of malaria and dengue fever. Clearly, perfectionist Prandelli is leaving nothing to chance.
FIFA Ranking 9
Betting Ranking 7
ELO Ranking 11