ROME - Italy can move closer to qualifying
for next year's Euro 2012 finals by beating Estonia on Friday
but coach Cesare Prandelli has warned players that they could be
overlooked next year if not playing regular club football.
With four wins and a draw from their first five Group C
qualifiers, Italy are well-placed to qualify for the tournament
in Poland and Ukraine but Prandelli remains determined to stamp
his authority on the new-look Azzurri.
"From August onwards anybody not playing regularly will find
it hard to get into the squad," Prandelli told reporters as the
team prepared for Friday's fixture in Modena at the national
team training centre in Tuscany.
"We'll be closer, I hope, to an important event and we must
be ready for it. This is a general point, I'm not talking about
Milan's Antonio Cassano, who scored one of the goals in the
2-1 comeback win in Estonia last September, is likely to start
up front alongside former Sampdoria team-mate Giampaolo Pazzini
while Mario Balotelli is also in the squad despite having fallen
foul of Prandelli's new disciplinary code.
The coach said both needed to be on their toes.
"I've repeated to Balotelli what I said before," said
Prandelli of his advice to the Manchester City striker to calm
down after he was sent off in European competition this season.
"I think he's understood me, he's not pleased with his
season despite its happy ending. [Antonio] Cassano will have to
force his way into the AC Milan team. People who don't play much
generally risk losing confidence."
Roma's troubled Daniele De Rossi is absent from a midfield
likely to feature Juventus pair Alberto Aquilani and Claudio
Marchisio, Fiorentina's Riccardo Montolivo and Inter Milan's
Thiago Motta, who scored the winner in March's 1-0 win in
"I'm sorry to have to say this, but De Rossi has not been
left out for technical reasons," Prandelli said of De Rossi, who
was recently banned for three games for elbowing in a Serie A
match against Bari.
"He'll have to get back the consistency and concentration he
seems to have lost in recent months.
"The door will always be open for Daniele, but there are
forms of behaviour on the field I just won't stand for, and I've
been saying this since day one."
Prandelli said Estonia could be Italy's toughest test since
he took over the Azzurri hot seat following last year's World
"Estonia is going to be the decisive game," he said of the
Eastern European side who have picked up four points from Serbia
in their last two matches. "I want a group prepared to graft.
We've always struggled when we play in June and September."
Estonia, who are six points behind Italy after five games,
travel to Modena with a depleted squad after influential
midfielder Aleksandr Dmitrijev was ruled out through injury and
Konstantin Vassiljev, their top scorer in qualifying, misses the
game through suspension.
In another blow to coach Tarmo Ruutli, forward Andres Oper
and defender Andrei Sidorenkov are both injuryed with Taijo
Teniste and Sergei Mosnikov in contention to make their
Middlesbrough's Tarmo Kink, who scored in the impressive 3-1
win in Serbia, is fit though as Estonia, a point behind Slovenia
and Serbia but with a game in hand, look for a first-ever
success against Italy.
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