Prandelli: Italy have a lot of catching up to do

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MILAN - Italy have a lot of catching up to do to reach the same standard as world champions Spain and Wednesday's friendly can show them how far they have still to go, coach Cesare Prandelli said Monday.

"I'm curious to see how much ground we have covered to reduce the distance between ourselves and Spain," Prandelli told reporters.

"I'm curious to see what point we are at. Spain have an advantage thanks to the work they have been doing over the last few years at national youth team level.

"The difference between them and us is cultural. I want to see our team play with personality and courage to win back the ball, and then to be able to use it."

Italy's World Cup win in 2006 has become a distant memory.

They lost on penalties to eventual winners Spain in the Euro 2008 quarter-finals and were knocked out in the group stage of last year's World Cup.

In contrast, Spain's style of play has captured the imagination of the footballing world while Barcelona are European club champions.

Prandelli also hit back at Fiorentina coach Sinisa Mihajlovic, who has complained at the decision to omit his striker Alberto Gilardino and call up two Serie B players - Angelo Ogbonna of Torino and Sampdoria midfielder Angelo Palombo.

"Gilardino is among the best players in the world for long balls played into space and into the middle of the area. Against Spain, I needed a player with other characteristics," Prandelli said.

"Palombo is not a Serie B player and Ogbonna is an extraordinary defender."