Prandelli proud of Italy transformation
Italy boss Cesare Prandelli has spoken of his pride in changing perceptions of the country's football and praised Marco Verratti, claiming the 19-year-old Paris Saint-Germain midfielder has the potential to become one of the continent's finest.
Italy reached the final of Euro 2012 and are in complete control of their World Cup qualifying group, having already opened a four-point lead on their rivals.
Much of the credit for Italy's recent success must go to Prandelli, with the former Fiorentina boss implementing a much more modern style of play.
He told Zonemixte.fr: "I am proud to be told Italy have a quality of football rarely seen before, especially when it is said by people who analyse the statistics. In Italy we are still so tied to the result, but we sent out a significant message that we can achieve a result via good football.
"We tried to give emotional moments and sensations to our fans and they appreciated that, even after losing the final. Obviously, we play to win. Anyone who wears this jersey must not only have responsibility, but also feel proud and represent a model for all the kids who dream of the Azzurri shirt.
"There are different expectations now, as it's not enough to create 15 scoring opportunities - people want three goals per game too. The way of seeing this team has changed radically, as if we are already the finished product."
Prandelli is hopeful that Verratti will play a big part in his Italy revolution and feels his move from Pescara to Paris has served to enhance both his own reputation and that of football on the peninsula in general.
"The strange thing is that we're happy no Italian clubs signed him, because that way the lad can gain international experience in France and the Champions League," he said. "He is a talent who perhaps should've been protected and dealt with differently.
"I am happy for him, as he has great character for someone so young. He can become one of the best midfielders in Europe, but he needs international experience first."