Montolivo backs Prandelli to get Italy on track
Riccardo Montolivo believes Italy manager Cesare Prandelli's attention to detail will get his spluttering side back on track in time for the World Cup.
With Italy's World Cup opener against England in Manaus just over two weeks away, Prandelli's team could do with a morale-boosting victory when they face the Republic of Ireland in a friendly at Fulham's Craven Cottage on Saturday.
The Italians are without a win in five matches since September after four draws, two at the end of World Cup qualifying campaign and two in friendlies, and a defeat against Spain in their previous warm-up fixture in March.
The four-time world champions need to put an end to that disappointing run to alleviate any fears of a repeat of the dismal 2010 World Cup campaign, when Marcello Lippi's team crashed out at the group stages without a single victory.
Prandelli's players shouldn't be lacking motivation at Craven Cottage because the Azzurri coach is yet to cut his provisional 30-man party down to the final 23-man squad that will travel to Brazil.
And AC Milan midfielder Montolivo insists the squad aren't starting to panic about a potential World Cup collapse thanks to Prandelli's composed demeanour and rigorous work ethic.
"Prandelli pays even more attention to detail in respect to the past," Montolivo said. "He is leaving nothing to chance and because of this, I think he seems at ease.
"He is doing everything possible in order for us to be ready. If someone meets a challenge by being ready and relaxed, they can give their best."
Prandelli, 56, has every reason to be relaxed around his players because his own future was secured when he signed a contract extension on Monday, which will keep him in the job beyond the European Championships in 2016.
There was further good news this week from the treatment room, where Fiorentina forward Giuseppe Rossi, who missed the second half of the domestic season after suffering a knee injury, is "working well", according to chief of medical staff Enrico Castellacci.
"He is determined, hungry and made a thousand sacrifices to be here and in the running for the World Cup," Prandelli said of Rossi.
Italy, who finished as runners-up at Euro 2012, swept through an unbeaten World Cup qualifying campaign, setting up group stage fixtures against England, Costa Rica and Uruguay in Brazil.
And despite their recent struggles, Milan captain Montolivo is convinced Italy will prove dangerous dark horses in Brazil.
"Brazil, Spain and Germany are a step ahead of everyone else," he said. "But then there is a second group of teams and that is where Italy are. I really hope it can be us who are the surprise package.
"We are here and now we need to work to get to the deep end of the tournament - that is everyone's dream.
"We will need to cause a surprise in order for that to happen. We are a strong team and if we play how we can we can cause problems for anyone."
Meanwhile, Ireland manager Martin O'Neill will continue to experiment following his side's 2-1 home defeat in a friendly against Turkey last week.
O'Neill's team didn't qualify for the World Cup and he is determined to test the depth of his squad in their remaining three friendlies -- Ireland also play Costa Rica and Portugal next month -- as he looks towards September's opening Euro 2016 qualifier in Georgia.
"Eventually these players are going to play regularly for their country," O'Neill said.
"There are one or two younger players here who haven't done that much. It's just a matter of trying to get ready for the game in September."