Prandelli to make late decision on Italy team to face Germany

The Azzurri coach continues to assess Daniele De Rossi, Giorgio Chiellini and Antonio Cassano - but insists his side will attack Germany in Thursday's Euro 2012 semifinal.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli will make a late decision on his starting lineup as he prepares to take on Germany at its own game in Thursday’s Euro 2012 semifinal clash in Warsaw.

The Italian team has had two days' less rest than Germany since the quarterfinal matches and the Azzurri's preparation has been far from ideal with the likes of Daniele De Rossi, Giorgio Chiellini and Antonio Cassano all doubts for the game.

History is in Italy's favor - from the 'match of the century' in 1970 to the World Cup semifinal in 2006 - as it has never lost to Germany in seven encounters at major tournaments.

Germany, however, comes in to the clash in fine form and is favorite to book a place in the final against Spain, which beat Portugal in a dramatic penalty shootout on Wednesday.

Prandelli will order his Italy players to play with the same conviction that they showed against England in the quarterfinals, to ignore any weariness and not be overwhelmed by Germany's pressing game.

"We are convinced we can play our own game so we're very calm from this perspective and keen to put into practice everything we've been working on in training," Prandelli said. "People are saying tomorrow will be an open game but we can't just sit deep. We've worked on this for two years and it would be a shame to waste it and change our playing style.

"I always ask myself questions about my starting lineup. This means everyone is available to play and can give me selection headaches.

"We are all fit mentally and physically. I don't think we can have any negative thoughts in our mind or think we are even a little bit tired. We have adrenaline and desire - these ingredients will be sufficient to forget any tiredness."

Italy, the four-time World Cup winner, will look to playmaker Andrea Pirlo to be the architect in central midfield and control the tempo of the game, as he did against England on Sunday.

De Rossi, who is struggling with a back problem, is desperate to join Pirlo in the starting lineup and believes the 33-year-old Juventus playmaker has the genius to unlock the Germany defense.

"No one wants to miss games like this, especially Italy against Germany with a chance to get into the final," De Rossi said. "I don't need to explain how important it is to me and my teammates. I'd hate to miss it because of an injury.

"It's not about being a hero or a warrior. I'm a professional and I'd never give up the opportunity to play in any match. I hate missing games.

"I've got a bad back but I'm confident I can play. We are going to have a late fitness test but, of course, I will do everything in my power to make sure I'm fit.

"We don't have any specific plans for our individuals but of course when there is a genius in any side like Andrea, the opposition are always going to keep a closer eye on him.

"We can't change the approach we've taken in the last two years. It would be useless to do that. Perhaps we won't dominate the play like we did against England because we're coming up against a stronger side."

Germany will look to stifle Pirlo with an energetic pressing game, setting the foundation for quick, intelligent attacks to set up a repeat of the Euro 2008 final.

Lukas Podolski, Thomas Muller and Mario Gomez are all expected to return to Joachim Low's side after he made changes for the 4-2 win over Greece in the last round.

"Pirlo is an exceptional player with good ideas," said Low. "He's the one who directs the game, so we have to stop him and get in his radius. We have to think of a way to play better than Italy in midfield and dictate the tempo of the match.

"We will not let Italy show us how to play. It's a confidence thing. We have to be cheeky, we have to be strong and brave. We will play our own game with our own ideas, regardless of who our opponent is."

Bastian Schweinsteiger, who has shaken off an ankle injury and is fit to start for the Germans, agrees that Pirlo is the man to stop but says die Mannschaft will not fear Italy.

"I like the way Pirlo plays," Schweinsteiger said. "He is 34, you have to say that, but the way he's played this tournament has been quite something. There's a way to stop him but he is a very good player."

"The respect is there, if you don't have any respect then you are dumb. Italy is a great nation with a great past. I think the point has come now where we can beat the next big opponent. There's big respect, great respect for what they've done, but there is no fear."

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