Euro 2012: Proud Italian Tardelli desperate to 'fight against' his country
MARCO Tardelli wants to go head-to-head with his native country at Euro 2012, amid suggestions that Italy's participation in the tournament could be in jeopardy due to the match-fixing investigation which rocked the Azzurri camp at the beginning of the week.
The allegations remain huge news here, with Prime Minister Mario Monti stating this week that it might be better for football to take a break until the issue was resolved.
That immediately led to questions about their involvement in the European Championships and, in a television interview that emerged yesterday morning, the Italian boss Cesare Prandelli said: "If you told us that for the good of football, we should not participate, it wouldn't be a problem for me. There are things that I believe are more important."
Prandelli's comments surprised Tardelli, and the Ireland assistant is certain that the Azzurri will take part. Indeed, that was effectively confirmed later in the day by Interior Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri, who encouraged the national team to go and play "with pride".
Tardelli wants to beat the Italians fair and square. "I'm sure they will go," he said. "And I want them to go. It's my country. I want to fight against my country."
The controversy around the Italians this week has been compared to the build-up to the 1982 and 2006 World Cups, which they both won. Tardelli was a key member of the 1982 side.
They were inspired by the goals of Paolo Rossi, who had a three-year ban from football reduced to two, which allowed him to play in the tournament.
Rossi himself was part of a betting scandal that shook the foundations of the game, but the Italians regrouped to win the competition so, in that context, Tardelli doesn't subscribe to the theory that Ireland can benefit from the woes of their Group C rivals.
"I don't think so," he said, "When the Italian players are on a pitch, they are very strong.
"I am sad about what happened. I know this situation in 1980 when many players were disqualified for this situation.
"We need to clean the situation because if we can carry on with this situation it is very bad for the football and the Italian people.
"I like to stay out of Italian football when in Italy, but I want my people to be recognised for the right reasons. They are honest people."
Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is the latest player to come under scrutiny, with details of his betting habits coming out in local media.
Buffon had a heated confrontation with reporters at a press conference earlier in the week, where he expressed sympathy for team-mate Domenico Criscito, who was sent home after his room was searched by police.
• Italy were last night beaten 3-0 by Russia in Zurich in their final warm-up game for Euro 2012.