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Soccer-Italy coach Prandelli keeps calm after Luxembourg draw

Reuters

By Terry Daley

ROME, June 4 (Reuters) - Italy coach Cesare Prandelli saw no cause for alarm in his side's 1-1 draw with tiny Luxembourg on Wednesday in their last international friendly before heading to the World Cup in Brazil.

Four times world champions Italy, who qualified for the World Cup with two matches to spare, have now gone seven games without a win and look a long way from being ready for a major tournament.

However Prandelli told reporters in Perugia that his team were well prepared for their opening match with England in 10 days time.

"I didn't see anything worrying, quite the opposite," said the coach.

"Right now we don't need to be talking about results, or even the performance. You need to look at the physical condition of the players, and we are in great physical condition."

Italy are traditionally poor in friendlies and usually slow starters to tournaments but Prandelli's side have looked unsure at the back and in attack throughout their qualifying campaign despite decent results.

They missed out on a top seed place in the draw for the World Cup following two poor displays against Denmark and Armenia in their final two qualifying games, which led to them being drawn with Uruguay, England and Costa Rica in Group D.

"Yes, we're missing a bit of flair and oomph for now, but the point of this preparation is to arrive in Brazil in the right manner," added Prandelli.

"Psychologically a player going to the World Cup just wants to get through that match. We didn't put in tackles and we didn't go in with huge determination or will to win."

WOBBLY DEFENCE

The coach's biggest concern will be his defence, which in recent matches has betrayed the tradition of stingy Italian backlines and been both uncharacteristically wobbly at set-pieces and susceptible to power in the air.

Italy will need to tighten up at dead ball situations ahead of the England match in Manaus, which will be played in high heat and humidity and could well be decided from a set play.

"It's annoying because we wanted to go to Brazil with a win, but I think this team wins when it needs to," said centre-back Giorgio Chiellini.

"We need to pay more attention at set-pieces. We were good for 50-60 minutes but after that we got a bit stretched and we lost our heads a bit."

The Juventus defender was convinced Italy will pull it out of the bag when needed, and their record in competitive matches under Prandelli suggests they could do that.

The former Fiorentina coach guided an unfancied Italy to the final of Euro 2012, where they were beaten by World Champions Spain.

That defeat was only one of two suffered by his side in non-friendly matches, with the other coming against Brazil 4-2 in last year's Confederations Cup. They were eventually knocked out in the semi-finals of that tournament through a penalty shoot out following a goalless draw with Spain.

"We're an odd national team, we haven't done well in friendlies for decades really. I would stay calm and let's hope we can be ready for when it matters in 10 days time," added Chiellini.

"We're going forward with faith and lot of enthusiasm. Tomorrow night we're finally going to Brazil and that's where the serious stuff begins." (Reporting by Terry Daley, editing by Alan Baldwin)

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