Baffled over criticism for a team change he has not even made, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli pleaded with his excitable countrymen on Sunday to put things into perspective and take football a little less seriously.
Prandelli said he found it "weird" that so much attention was being paid to a simple game of football as Italy, facing possible first-round elimination, face Ireland in a decisive Group C match on Monday.
The 54-year-old told the media he adored talking about technical and tactical issues but instead was confronted with questions such as, "How would it feel if Italy get knocked out?" from one scribe.
"At the end of the day, this is a simple game of football and football needs to bring happiness to people," Prandelli told reporters.
"I don't know, there's a weird situation surrounding this match, very weird... we can't have these mindsets."
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," he pleaded. "We are just thinking about tomorrow's game, we could win and it might still not be enough. Let us play and let's get on with it."
Prandelli, who took over following Italy's first round exit at the World Cup, has rebuilt the national side with limited resources as the country suffers from a dearth of young talent.
The former Roma and Fiorentina coach's wife of 25 years died after an eight-year battle against cancer in 2007 and he knows the world outside football is more important than what happens on the pitch.
Prandelli seemed particularly exasperated over the reporting of possible team changes, including the dropping of striker Mario Balotelli, especially as he has not confirmed them.
Responding to one question which implied criticism of the unconfirmed changes, Prandelli replied: "We have not ever changed our formation and we are still being criticised for it."
"It's not a case that we're against anyone here," he added. "I want to prepare so we have a slight advantage over the opposition, it's not we lack respect [for the media].
"We are all part of Italy so it's strange when you hear people say we are trying to hide information. We need to take a step back. It's not that important."
After another reporter put forward a possible lineup and asked if Prandelli had thought of it, the coach replied: "It's not a case that we have been sleeping and have just woken up. We've been training together for a whole month."
Italy must beat Ireland to have a chance of qualifying, although they could still be eliminated if Spain and Croatia play out a 2-2 draw or higher. That has led to conspiracy theories appearing in the Italian media.
"If it went badly, I have to take my responsibility, we will have to work why it went wrong," said Prandelli. "We will be bitter and disappointed and I will say what I think."comments