Rio de Janeiro, June 7 IANS | 6 months ago

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has insisted his team's unimpressive form will have no bearing on their World Cup fortunes in Brazil.

The Azzurri arrived at their tournament base in Mangaratiba, 100 km west of Rio de Janeiro, Friday following disappointing friendly draws against Ireland and Luxembourg in the past week, reported Xinhua.

Their most recent victory came against the Czech Republic last September and has been followed by six draws and a loss.

But Prandelli pointed to Italy's tradition of defying odds at major tournaments as reason for optimism ahead of the June 12-July 13 event.

"History shows us that we have been able to overcome difficulties," Prandelli said during his first World Cup press conference.

"I'm thinking about the work we've done and what still needs to be done. When you know what to do it puts you in a state of great optimism."

Italy will play their first Group D match against England June 14 before clashes against Costa Rica June 20 and Uruguay four days later.

The key to the Azzurri's hopes of success will be the form of striker Mario Balotelli, who has netted 12 goals from 30 international appearances but has often courted controversy for his behaviour on and off the pitch.

"All I want for Mario is that he has the right continuity and plays with a free mind," the coach said. "If he does that he'll be in the thick of things."

Prandelli's team suffered a major blow when AC Milan captain Ricardo Montolivo was ruled out of the tournament with a broken shin last week.

Italy will play their final World Cup warmup match against Brazilian Serie A side Fluminense in the city of Volta Redonda Sunday.

(Posted on 07-06-2014)

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