Football: We lack condition not character, says Prandelli

Italy's defender Leonardo Bonucci and midfielder Andrea Pirlo react as smoke of a flare billows on the pitch on June 14, 2012.

POZNAN, Poland - Italy coach Cesare Prandelli denied his side lack character after they failed to hold onto a lead for the second game in a row at Euro 2012.

The Azzurri have now drawn both their opening two games 1-1 against, first Spain last Sunday and then Croatia on Thursday.

Having held the lead for just three minutes against the world champions, they conceded an equaliser 18 minutes from time against Croatia, leaving them third in Group C.

Italy trail both Spain and Croatia by two points and must beat Ireland in their final group game to have any chance of reaching the quarter-finals.

In both games Italy have been holding on at the end and Prandelli says the problem is they do not have the physical condition to maintain their intensity for an entire match.

"I don't think we lack character. As for the analysis of these two games, after 70 minutes our physical condition drops," he said. "We've got a few days to recover physically but in case it happens again we need to be even more balanced.

"When you're a more balanced team you can react for 90 minutes, even when you're tired. For the first 70 minutes, we're always very organised and there's little space between the lines but when gaps open up these are when the problems start."

The result has brought up the possibility that Italy could be eliminated even if they beat Ireland convincingly in their last match.

Final positions are decided by head-to-head records and if they do beat the Irish and Spain draw with Croatia then positions would be decided on who has scored the most goals in the series of three draws between those three sides.

It means that a 2-2 draw between Spain and Croatia would eliminate Italy.

That is a scenario they have already faced eight years ago in Portugal, when Sweden and Denmark drew their final game by that exact score to knock Italy out on goals scored.

But the Azzurri insist they don't believe in conspiracy theories and will not even entertain thoughts of a repeat.

"I don't subscribe to those kind of thoughts, I just want to get our strength back for the next game. I believe all games are regulation," said Prandelli.

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who played in the 2004 turnament, went even further.

"That was two teams of a medium level who had the chance to both qualify," he said of the 2004 incident.

"Here we're talking about a very good team (Croatia) and the best team in the world (Spain). It's not the same, they're great champions."

For the last game, Prandelli said he would consider freshening up his personnel but he won't be changing his 3-5-2 formation.

One player who may find himself replaced despite a vastly improved showing than the one he produced against Spain is Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli.

He was the first player to be substituted again as Prandelli threw Udinese's Antonio Di Natale into the fray.

And afterwards he said Balotelli had not played as he wanted in the second half.

"He (Balotelli) did well in the first half, he went deep but in the second half he needed to continue getting into those situations but instead he went the other way and it was dfficult to break out of that," said Prandelli.

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