Guidolin expects Di Natale to score against Republic of Ireland

The Udinese boss is backing his captain to put one over the Boys in Green after hailing the forward as a "genius" ahead of Monday's crunch Euro 2012 clash

Francesco Guidolin believes Antonio Di Natale will come up trumps on Monday evening for Italy and score in the Azzurri's final match in Group C against Republic of Ireland.

The Udinese coach branded his captain as a "genius" ahead of the do-or-die encounter in Poznan and also lauded the influence of Antonio Cassano and Andrea Pirlo in the national team.

 Mark Doyle
 Italy Expert
It now seems certain that Italy coach Cesare Prandelli will replace Mario Balotelli up front with Antonio Di Natale, and the thinking behind the switch is sound.

Admittedly, Balotelli’s demeanour was far more positive against Croatia but his accuracy still left something to be desired.

As Francesco Guidolin points out, Di Natale is a more reliable finisher and, for a game in which the Azzurri cannot afford to be wasteful in front of goal, the Udinese man is the better option alongside Antonio Cassano.

"Di Natale is a genius," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “His birth certificate says he's about to turn 35, but I don't see that. He has matured of late, and today he is so sure of himself.

"It's difficult for him to miss a chance now."

When asked about a potential partnership in attack with Cassano, Guidolin replied: "Di Natale needs to have a forward behind him who will give him the ball.

"And yes, Cassano holds the ball well, and passes with the right timing and with absolute precision.

“But don't forget Pirlo in midfield. The goal against Spain is a prime example of what can happen between those two: a beautiful pass, Toto's movement and the finish. Pirlo sees the game, and has immense quality.

“I trust [Cesare] Prandelli to exploit our boys correctly.”

The Zebrette boss concluded the interview by quashing any rumours of a 'biscotto' between Spain and Croatia: a mutually beneficial draw that will see Italy knocked out of Euro 2012.

"We will qualify," he noted. "There will be no repeat of what happened at Euro 2004 [when Sweden and Denmark played out a 2-2 draw to send Italy home]. Spain are world champions and Croatia are a serious team."

Kick-off between Italy and Ireland is scheduled for 20:45CET.