By Barnaby Chesterman, AFP LJUBLJANA–Coach Cesare Prandelli admitted on Thursday that Italy need to start rebuilding soccer in the country from the grassroots level. Italy play Slovenia in a Euro 2012 qualifier on Friday looking to maintain their three-point lead over their rivals at the top of group C. But ever since Italy’s dismal showing at the World Cup in South Africa last June, the focus in the country has been on the lack of emerging talent. And former Slovenia striker Zlatko Zahovic stuck the knife in earlier this week when he claimed that Italy doesn’t have many good players any more and that his team should win easily. Prandelli wasn’t hiding from the fact that his squad is lacking in quality, particularly with AC Milan playmaker Andrea Pirlo injured and Manchester City youngster Mario Balotelli frozen out for disciplinary reasons. “It’s a difficult situation as we need to rebuild our soccer from the base, we need to concentrate on youth, but then again we’re Italy so we must always aim for the top level,” he said. “We know all about our difficulties but we haven’t started playing yet so we’ll see after the match. “It can happen that a team with great players can be put in difficulty by one that is rich in fantasy.” But Prandelli left no doubt as to where he thinks the problem lies with the country’s soccer claiming that more needs to be done to develop talented young players. And he said that Italy could do worse than take a leaf out of their opponents’ book, pointing to young Palermo midfield pair Josip Ilicic and Armin Bacinovic, who have both impressed in Serie A this season since joining from Maribor. “A few years ago Slovenia started down this road (concentrating on youth) that we’ve fallen off,” said Prandelli.
“We need to rediscover our culture and concentrate on youth like we did before and we must work on technique because that’s the only way to develop youth.”