KEIR RADNEDGE in KYIV: Italy coach Cesare Prandelli, in defeat in the Euro 2012 final, was full of praise for Spain while pointing out that his team were too tired to do themselves justice – and ultimately ran out of luck with injuries as well.
Did fatigue play an important role in your defeat?
Yes, it’s the only regret I have because we came back only on Friday night and this was our third game in too short a space of time. On top of that we had to face a terrific side and then, when we went to 10 men, the game wsa all over. Perhaps we could have got back into the game at the start of the second half – we had two chances – but once Thiago Motta went off injured we didn’t have anything left in the tank.
There was a lot of excitement before the game about the letter you received from head of state President Napoletano. Was that, perhaps, a distraction?
Not at all. Quite the opposite: it gave us extra motivation. We’ve had a terrific European Championship and the only regret is that we didn’t have a few extra days in which to rest up before this final.
Do you think that Spain learned some important points about your Italy team from the group match?
It was a very difficult group but I think we were excellent in that first game because we were 100pc fit. But, against a side like Spain you have to be good in going into the tackle and be fit but they completely dominated the match this evening. We should congratulate a great side for a great victory.
Will you continue as coach?
There were times when I wasn’t entirely sure about this job but I’ve never had any problems with the Italian federation. This project needs to continue; we really need to keep it going. I will be speaking to president Abete.
Why did you substitute Riccardo Montolivo?
He was absolutely exhausted. In midfield we were completely spent, energy-wise, and I thought he had used up the most energy. We also thought we’d have a bit more quality by sending on Thiago Motta who could exploit the abilities of Di Natale who had also on just come on. Of course it didn’t work because Motta was injured almost immediately.
Are Spain the greatest-ever national team?
Spain have made history and deservedly so. They’ve been playing terrific football for a number of years and have a lot of players who are tried and tested at this levbel. So even though they don’t play with a traditional striker they still cause a hell of a lot of problems.
Were your players over-confident before the game?
Not at all. We realised straight away that we were not fit or fresh enough by comparison with our other games in this tournament so when we lost the ball we couldn’t get back and cover up quickly enough. We always knew Spain were a fantastic footballing side. We were tired – that’s all we can say.
What did you say to Mario Balotelli when he was in tears after the match?
I said to him that these are experiences you have to learn to deal with. Sometimes you have to hold up your hands and say the opponents were better and then you accept the defeat and try to make sure this will help you going forward. Then you can learn and grow from the experience. This has happened to any number of payers and will happen again and this is what sport is all about.
If you had to mark your team out of 10 for the overall campaign, what would it be?
I think eight out of 10 – because we started the tournament with a few problems, we had Spain in our group so that was all very difficult.
We’ve played some terrific games but then we struggled to regain fitness at the end. But I think we showed that, if you have team spirit and are united then you can chase the dream. You can play without kicking opponents and, if you have to, you can lose with dignity. The players have shown they can react to difficult challenges so I’m very proud of my team.
You can never be happy after a defeat because you always want to win games but of course the more time goes on the more we will realise we’ve had an extraordinary tournament . . . so when I fly over Kyiv tonight and see the lights of the stadium I will have a little pang but I think we have had a fantastic tournament and will feel a little better tomorrow.
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