Zaza hopes winner lifts Euro hopes

TURIN (Italy) • Super-sub Simone Zaza is hoping a "title-winning" late strike that sent champions Juventus top of Serie A on Saturday after a 1-0 win over Napoli helps seal his place at Euro 2016.

He is just one of the Azzurri fringe players looking to impress Italy coach Antonio Conte between now and this summer's showpiece in France.

The 24-year-old has had few starts for Juventus this campaign, being used mainly in the latter stages of the second half as a replacement for either Alvaro Morata or Mario Mandzukic.

When he replaced Spanish striker Morata just 13 minutes into the second half, he capitalised on one of his few chances to impress club coach Massimiliano Allegri, as well as Conte, who was in the stands.

Zaza admitted that more regular playing time would help his case but told Sky Sport: "The objective is to be a protagonist at the European Championship, I hope Conte calls me up."

In the meantime, he was left savouring a superb strike that has put Juve firmly in contention for equalling their own, pre-war record of five consecutive league titles.

"I was lucky, but also good. I hope this turns out to be an important, a title-winning goal," he added. "We suffered throughout the whole game because Napoli were threatening to hurt us on the counter... If we continue like this, no one is going to take the title away from us."

His 88th-minute goal earned Juventus a club record-extending 15th league win in a row - two victories shy of matching the Italian Serie A mark established by Inter Milan in 2006-07.

Napoli, aiming to win the title for the first time since 1990, had won their previous eight games and boasted the league's most prolific attack with 53 goals. However, experienced goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon barely had a save to make as Juve's defence, the stingiest in the championship, prevailed.

Juve, who were 11 points adrift of first place after 10 games this season, now lead with 57 points, one ahead of Napoli. Roma, who are 10 points off the pace in third spot, won 3-1 at Carpi on Friday.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2016, with the headline 'Zaza hopes winner lifts Euro hopes'. Print Edition | Subscribe