midfielder Thiago Motta has travelled the world in a search of
beautiful football but when faced by the might of Spain, even he
is willing to play ugly if it means success.
The two football monoliths clash in their Euro 2012 Group C
opener in Gdansk, Poland on Sunday with holders and tournament
favourites Spain likely to dominate possession with their highly
successful short-passing style.
To try to combat their imposing threat and outmuscle Spain's
diminutive midfield, Italy look set to play a new system with
three at the back and the middle of the park flooded with two
wing-backs and three bullying players in the centre.
Brazil-born Thiago Motta, who spent time at the Barcelona
school of tiki-taka passing with some of Spain's luminaries
before moving to Serie A and now Paris Saint-Germain, has a good
chance of playing in central midfield and is ready for battle.
"We hope to play nice football because we want to but in the
end what matters is winning," the 29-year-old, more used to
playing dainty little flicks than getting his foot in, told
reporters on Thursday.
He was totally blunt when asked whether the famous
catenaccio style of previous Italy teams, where stout defence
and pursuit of a 1-0 victory prevailed, paled in comparison with
Spain's vibrant play.
"The old Italy won," the former Inter Milan man barked.
The Spanish are without injured striker David Villa and
defender Carles Puyol but Thiago Motta reckons the threat posed
by midfielders Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Xabi
Alonso means they are still top class.
"I don't believe they are less strong," he said.
"They have had a good, good moment in the last four years,
they have won everything. They have lost Villa and Puyol but are
still playing at the same level.
"The most important thing is that we play as a team."
The thought of Italy players hunting in packs in a bid to
steal the ball from the world champions will lead some Azzurri
fans to wonder whether one of their number - livewire Mario
Balotelli - will be able to avoid some risky ankle-clipping.
The striker has been in trouble with referees in the past
for rash kicks when he challenges for the ball.
Balotelli has been up to his usual antics off the pitch,
smacking Thiago Motta round the head during a team photo, but
his friend hopes he can behave when it matters most.
"Even here he annoys me," the midfielder joked, remembering
their time together at Inter. "Mario is a great lad. But he has
to have the responsibility to play for the national team."
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