Prandelli fights to rally Italians

Italy’s Euro 2012 plans are in danger of being derailed by outside forces as a betting scandal clouded coach Cesare Prandelli’s announcement of his squad for the tournament.

Prandelli is facing growing political pressure after he defended his decision to include Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci in his Euro 2012 squad.

Bonucci is expected to face questioning in the latest match-fixing investigation to hit the country with prosecutors interested in his time as a Bari player in the 2009-10 campaign.

However, he is not under any formal investigation at this stage and has denied any wrongdoing.

Italy omitted Zenit St Petersburg defender Domenico Criscito from the squad after he was handed an official notification by the police at the Azzurri’s training headquarters in Coverciano, Florence, of being under investigation.

“The most annoying thing is that some people have linked Bonucci’s issue with that of Criscito,” Prandelli said. “I reiterate that Bonucci has not received any type of notification from the prosecutors’ office. This is why he will come with us to the European Championship.”

Adding to the pressure is Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Monti, who believes domestic football in the country needs a break of “two to three years” to allow match-fixing to be cleansed

“This is not a government proposal, but it is something that I, who have been for many years a football fan, feel inside me,” said Monti.

In 2006, a match-fixing scandal was a dark cloud over the Azzurri and Juventus were eventually relegated and stripped of two league titles after being found guilty of influencing referees.

Even so, the Italians won the World Cup in Germany that summer.

“We want to play, to win and to come out clean,” Prandelli said. “The similarities with that of 2006 are there but they say in the difficult times the group unites.

“I hope that will be the case but I don’t believe in the theory that says that Italians only emerge in times of crisis. We also rise in times of calmness.

“Now the important thing is to make people understand our intention and that is to clean up football.”

Italy, meanwhile, is in mourning after an earthquake in the northern region of Emilia Romagna yesterday killed at least 10 people.

The Azzurri’s friendly against Luxembourg in Parma due to be played last night was called off as a consequence.

A statement from the Italian football federation (FIGC) read: “The friendly between Italy and Luxembourg scheduled for tonight at the Stadio Tardini in Parma has been called off.

“The decision has been taken by the FIGC along with the local and regional authorities after the earthquake that has hit the Emilia Romagna region and affected the north of Italy.”

Vincenzo Bernazzoli, president of the Emilia Romagna region, added: “In our region, millions of people have been affected. In view of the victims and of the continuous tremors, it does not seem appropriate to proceed with the game.”

The tremors were felt across the north of Italy, including the hotel where the Italian national team are staying.

“It is the first time I have felt an earthquake,” Italy midfielder Claudio Marchisio said.

Italy will face Russia in Zurich in a friendly on Friday.

Inter Milan defender Andrea Ranocchia and Siena striker Mattia Destro will not be travelling to Switzerland with the rest of the group as they were dropped from the squad yesterday after Prandelli announced his final 23-man roster.

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