Euro 2012: Italy manager Cesare Prandelli surprised by Republic of Ireland's early exit
Cesare Prandelli has admitted his surprise that the Republic of Ireland will not be fighting for Euro 2012 qualification tonight.
The Italy boss will send his team out to face Giovanni Trapattoni's men with his own hopes hanging by a thread, but the Republic's long gone.
An opening defeat by Croatia was followed by a 4-0 demolition job by reigning champions Spain, meaning the Republic will be heading home on Tuesday regardless of the result in Poznan.
Asked if he was surprised the game is not the decider the Irish hoped it might be, Prandelli said: "Yes, quite honestly, I am.
"We have watched the Croatia game again and they had prepared for that game with a tactical approach.
"But then Ireland conceded a goal after just three minutes and they couldn't change the way the game went."
Although Ireland's hopes have gone - even a victory would simply restore a little pride - the Italians have to win and hope the Spain v Croatia game ends in a victory for either side if they are to progress.
A 2-2 draw in Gdansk would put Prandelli's men out regardless, although he is not allowing himself to consider that particular scenario, and is instead focusing only on winning the game.
He said: "They are a strong team and we need to be wary of them. They have got a lot of national pride and they have got a great ability to fight in games.
"As [Trapattoni's assistant] Marco Tardelli has said, they always go out for the win, and they want to give this gift to their many fans.
"There are a lot of different components here and that will make it a difficult game, of course."
Prandelli was questioned repeatedly by Italian journalists about the system he might employ, his tried and trusted 3-5-2 or a more experimental 4-3-1-2 which he is understood to have trialled in a behind-closed-doors training session, although he was shedding little light on his plans.
He said: "We hadn't even finished the training session when the news was already out there. A team must be able to change and adapt both within a game and from match to match.
"The way I see football, if we play with a three-man defence, then Daniele De Rossi is in that defence. If De Rossi goes to the midfield, then we reconstruct the squad to give the strikers the right build-up.
"We are not taking on public opinion. I prepare the training sessions and the games to have an advantage during the match. It's not a lack of respect for the fans or media. We are together.
"We accept criticism, but too often we get criticised before we have even done anything! We haven't chosen our system yet and are already getting criticised for it."