Club approach helped Italy win: Conte

PARIS • Italy may have sent Spain home for an early siesta, but coach Antonio Conte claims that his team are lacking in talent and have made it to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 only through sheer hard work.

Whether Spain's exit counts as a shock depends on how stern a view one takes of their fall from grace in Brazil two years ago, though it is indisputable that Italy were superior in almost every department with the possible exception of finishing.

If Conte had a predator at his disposal in the great Italian tradition the scoreline might have been even more emphatic.

As it was, Italy were hanging on before Graziano Pelle's breakaway clincher in stoppage time set up a quarter-final against Germany in Bordeaux on Saturday,

"We threatened them a lot, it is not easy to make so many chances against a Spain team full of superstars," Conte said.

"Maybe we should have had another goal in the first half, or in the second when Eder was through on goal, that's the small regret we have.

"But the performance was incredible. Apart from a small period in the second half, we did not suffer from Spain's ball possession."

Conte was humble in victory, adding that work rate and team spirit had allowed the Azzurri to dump the holders out of the tournament.

"Right from the outset since I took over I have said that the only route forward to achieve a semblance of success is to try and be like a club team - to be like a team that play together every week," he said.

"We can't simply be a group of players. There is no point in hiding it, this is not the rosiest period for Italy in terms of talent.

"Given the fact we can't fall back on a selection of good players we have to be a collective.

"I have battled for two years for people to understand this and we are a team. We have been working very intensively for a month now, tactically and physically, in a bid to surprise people and we have already succeeded in that."

Conte also feels their next opponents Germany, however, could pose a greater challenge.

The world champions cruised through the group stage and thumped Slovakia 3-0 to reach the last eight.

"We now face the best side at the European Championship next Saturday," Conte said.

"It's going to be very, very hard in all aspects. We've got to do well to recover and prepare for Germany the best way we can."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2016, with the headline 'Club approach helped Italy win: Conte'. Print Edition | Subscribe