Marco Tardelli says Italy's next opponent, his former trainees from the Republic of Ireland, have 'great character, but not much attention to tactics'.
The two teams play each other on Wednesday, June 22, in a match that will be largely meaningless to the Italians, whose first place in Group E is already guaranteed.
Tardelli worked as assistant to Giovanni Trapattoni at the time when the latter was appointed Coach of the Irish, and he met the players of the current squad over the 2008-13 tenure.
“I know them very well, we coached pretty much all of them,” Tardelli told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “I can tell you that they're hopeful. They're used to playing all of their games at 100 per cent, so they can't imagine that anyone may approach a game differently.
“And they know that the so-called reserves have to prove their worth to [Coach Antonio] Conte.
“Their collapse against Belgium? They made too many mistakes, one after the other, but all for the same reason: they have trouble handling the game tactically. They don't get that football is also an intellectual matter, and not just about attacking and going forward.
“They conceded two of their three goals on counters. It seems like an enormous paradox, but for them it's normal to play without stopping to think.
“They have great qualities in terms of character and physical build, a great drive to learn, and not very much attention to tactics. They always want to play, even when they're training.
“So we had to invent new ways of getting them to practice tactics even as they played.”
Tardelli was then asked to list five outstanding Irish players.
“I'll start from [Shane] Long, my pupil. Sometimes he flunks some sitters before the goal because he's completely exhausted, but one of my best memories from that time is his incredible header against England, in a friendly in Wembley, in May 2013. I was so happy!
“Robbie Keane is the captain because of his football qualities as well as the human ones. Very often he gave money for people who work behind the scenes.
“[James] McCarthy had a Scottish and Irish passport. I went to speak with him to see if he could play with us. I don't know if I was the one who convinced him, I…