Time for Italy to show true identity: Prandelli

Italy's Andrea Barzagli, left, listens to his coach Cesare Prandelli during the Group B 2014 World Cup qualifying match against Bulgaria. -Photo by AP

ROME: Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has called for an end to under-par displays by his players after making a “critical analysis” of the Azzurri's 2-2 draw with Bulgaria.

Italy on Friday were lucky to share the points in Sofia where the hosts were solid all over the field and came close to handing the beaten Euro 2012 finalists their first defeat of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

While Prandelli admitted post-match his side were fortunate, he had a tougher appraisal of his players -- and of himself -- after reviewing the Group B match.

At a scheduled press conference in Florence, Prandelli, who against all odds led Italy to the Euro final five weeks ago only to be humbled 4-0 by Spain, said he did not want to see a repeat performance.

“I've watched the match and how it went and I have to make a critical analysis,” he said.

“We suffered a lot and that should not happen.”

Italy host Malta in Modena on Tuesday in a match which, on paper, should give the 2006 World Cup champions a chance to make amends.

While three points will be expected from Italy, Prandelli wants his players to go out and show their pride at wearing the blue shirt.

“It's been said we'll make a lot of changes, but the most important thing is for us to play quality football. We are Italy, and we must characterise something more than a simple tactical model,” he said.

“We have to rediscover our identity for Tuesday.”

Prandelli's choice to use a 3-5-2, a tactical formation whose success largely depends on lively wing backs who can both defend as well as attack, was exposed regularly in Sofia and much criticised in the national press.

Later in the match, he also experimented with a 4-3-1-2.

To his credit, Prandelli admitted his tactical choices were “also under par”, adding: “For the first time in two years I saw a team that was too stretched out and played too many long balls.”

Italy's only injury doubt for Tuesday is Roma striker Danile De Rossi, who is expected to be ruled out with a thigh injury suffered while stretching to try and block Bulgaria's 66th minute equaliser.

Italy's following qualifier is away to Armenia on October 12.

Group B is composed of Italy, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Armenia, Malta and Bulgaria.

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