Who were your football heroes as a kid? I liked Lothar Matthaus, [Czechoslovakia’s] Tomas Skuhravy and [Cameroon 1990 keeper] Thomas Nkono. I liked the way Nkono seemed to approach playing in an open way. I always followed the underdog. In Italy, I supported Genoa and then Pescara when everyone else was following Maradona and Napoli.

What was the most important factor in making Italy world champions? Our strength as a group. We all stuck together. We also had Marcello Lippi in charge, who was a good motivator and great at bringing the best out of players.

Roberto Donadoni has taken over. What’s the biggest difference with this Italy side? Tactics. We play a different way compared to Lippi. But it’s working and paying dividends.

Italy are in “the Group of Death”. Could we see a shock? It’s a very difficult group. On paper, Italy and France are favourites to go through, but in reality it isn’t like that. I don’t think there is one favourite, or a team that is going to be massacred. People will write off Romania, but they have a team that has to be watched.

After Italy, who are favourites? There are always three or four teams that stand out. I’d watch Italy, France, Germany and Spain. Holland could do something, if they get out of our group. I’m glad Italy can’t meet France in the final [again].

Will Euro ’08 lack something without England? Definitely. I’m disappointed England are not there, for the tradition that they bring and the support that follows them. F

or the full interview and more coverage of Euro 2008, pick up the July edition of Australian FourFourTwo, with a free Panini Euro 2008 Sticker Album, on sale Wednesday June 4.