Ignazio Abate: 2006 victory still stirs unbelievable emotion in Italy

The Italy and AC Milan right-back talks to Andy Greeves about his nation's World Cup chances, their opener against England and the possibility of a move to the Premier League...

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What do you see specifically as England’s threats?
England has a physically strong squad and they play with great intensity for 90 minutes. Their technical ability is obvious also. You can see England-Italy being a great game for the spectators. This is always the case when two top European nations play one another.

What is Cesare Prandelli like to work with?
Prandelli searches for perfection in everything that he does and he prepares for a game by analyzing and exploring ever minor details. Every time we go on the pitch, we go with clear ideas and when a player knows exactly what he has to do, everything is easier.

What is it possible for Italy to achieve at this summer’s World Cup?
We have to be focused on the group games in the here and now. Everyone’s initial target is to qualify from their group and then after that, we will see. You can afford to dream of course and we just want to do as well as we possibly can.

Who do you think are the teams with the best chance of winning the World Cup?
Brazil, Argentina, Spain and Germany are the favourites as they are one step ahead of the competition. Brazil play on home soil of course and with ‘Torcida’ (Brazilian ultras) behind every game. Every opponent of Brazil will have to face the passion of Brazilian fans too.

How much did Italy’s World Cup victory of 2006 mean to everyone in the country?
I still have the image of Fabio Grosso's winning penalty etched in my mind. It’s a rare for anyone with a love of football to see their national team win the World Cup. To do so, obviously means everything. That victory still stirs unbelievable emotion in Italy to this day.

What has it been like playing with some of that 2006 squad?
It has been fantastic being teammates with the likes of (Gennaro) Gattuso, (Alessandro) Nesta, (Andrea) Pirlo, (Massimo) Oddo. They are great men, great professionals and champions. I’ve admired them on and off the pitch and they offer a super example to any player how to conduct yourself. Nesta was a particular influence on my career. We play in the same part of the field and during training sessions and in matches, his approach is only something I could learn from.

Would you like to play in Barclays Premier League in the future?
Of course, yes. I think is the most important league in the world. English football fascinates me, with the atmosphere, stadiums full of supporters, the passion and the top players. It would be an exciting experience.