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Italy hope on Prandelli

14 May 2014, 18:27

Milan - Italy's coach Cesare Prandelli oozes quiet optimism and is known for getting the best out of his players -- even the hotheads.

And the 56-year-old Prandelli will be one of the lucky few managers at the World Cup in Brazil who know they will have their job after, win or lose.

A former Juventus midfielder who played 197 games in Serie A, Prandelli's five-year spell as Fiorentina's coach put him on the path to the Italy job. It was also a period of personal tragedy.

Despite Fiorentina starting the 2006-2007 season with a 15-point deduction over their role in a match-fixing scandal, Prandelli steered 'La Viola' to a sixth-place finish and a UEFA Cup spot.

In the ensuing campaign, Prandelli's wife Manuela Caffi died from breast cancer -- when she had originally been diagnosed with the illness in 2004 he had abruptly resigned from the Roma job so he could be with his childhood sweetheart only days after taking on the coaching role.

Despite the loss of the mother of his two children he somehow found the resolve to steer Fiorentina to the UEFA Cup semi-finals where they were only eliminated by Rangers in a penalty shoot-out.

Prandelli won the coach of the season award -- and that same resolve has seen the sharp-suited Italian win admirers for turning a poor Italian squad into one which can at least hold its head high.

Marcelo Lippi left the coach's job after Italy's ignominious first-round exit at the 2010 World Cup and Prandelli within two years had turned them round by steering them to the 2012 European Championship final.

It was a tournament which saw the tempestuous Mario Balotelli, who had been subjected to racist taunts during the tournament, score a brace in the semi-final against Germany.

Italy were outclassed 4-0 by Spain in the final but Prandelli had made his mark. Despite a few shakes and wobbles in World Cup qualifying, confidence in Prandelli, if not his team, is riding fairly high.

Having recently expressed doubts about his future after the Brazil finals, a new two-year contract was soon on its way.

Known for his pragmatism -- that has seen newcomers Mattia Destro and Ciro Immobile preferred to the ageing Luca Toni and Antonio Di Natale -- and his human touch, Prandelli is not afraid to bang his fists on the table when required.

He has made his mark applying the Italian league's "code of ethics" that several players have fallen foul of.

No-nonsense midfielder Daniele De Rossi was left out of the squad this year after being handed a three-match ban for throwing a punch in a league game with Inter -- though he has made the provisional squad for the finals.

Roma's teammate Destro suffered the same fate after slapping an opponent but also gained a recall to the provisional squad on Tuesday.

After a recent national team training camp, from which Destro was absent, Prandelli warned: "This morning I met with the players and I reminded them that the league's code of ethics will count.

"Even in the last month of the season, whoever slips up stays at home because it means he won't be able to handle the pressure of the World Cup."

Prandelli has stood up for the controversial Balotelli on several occasions, notably in January after the AC Milan striker made a rude gesture to opposition fans after levelling in an eventual 2-1 win at Cagliari.

"Balotelli will learn," Prandelli said to Gazzetta dello Sport. "He's a player often ruled by his emotions. He has these reactions but inside he is a very good person."

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