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Italy coach Antonio Conte attends a walk around session at the Pierre Mauroy stadium.
Italy coach Antonio Conte attends a walk around session at the Pierre Mauroy stadium.

'You don't beat Germany by the grace of God' - Italy coach talks up Ireland

Antonio Conte also spoke of his memories of being an unused sub in the famous 1994 clash between the sides.
Jun 21st 2016, 7:57 PM 5,199 3

- Paul Fennessy reports from the Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille

ITALY COACH ANTONIO Conte says their performance in the Euro 2016 qualifiers against Norway shows they won’t go easy on Ireland in tomorrow’s climactic Group E Euro 2016 encounter.

Italy are expected to rest a number of important players for their match with the Boys in Green at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille on Wednesday night.

Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi is one booking away from a suspension and therefore expected to be left out, with the Italians set to finish top of Group E regardless of the outcome.

Juventus’ Gianluigi Buffon (illness) and Lazio’s Antonio Candreva (hamstring), who both missed training yesterday, are also unlikely to be risked.

However, coach Antonio Conte — who will leave his role to become Chelsea boss after the Euros — rejected any talk of the game being a ‘dead rubber’ or ‘damp squib’ as far as the Italians were concerned.

The 46-year-old boss, who has previously managed Bari, Atalanta and Juventus among others, cited Italy’s match with the Norwegians in the qualifiers to the support his argument that the Azzurri would not rest on their laurels, despite having secured group qualification.

In the game in question, Italy had already secured qualification, but goals in the last 20 minutes from Alessandro Florenzi and Graziano Pelle ensured a 2-1 win, consigning Norway to the play-offs in the process.

“In last match against Norway, we were already through, but we forced Norway into a playoff,” Conte reminded journalists at a press conference today.

There will be some decisions which shows how much the game means to us. Winning breeds confidence

“It’s not a game to decide who are starters and who are substitutes.

“This match is for those that have played less than others and those I choose to pick

I’m going to try to pick a balanced side, otherwise, we’ll have problems.

“If we were to lose, people would start to have a go at us.”

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As for Ireland? Conte described them as a “physical, powerful side” and likened them to the team that famously beat Italy in the 1994 World Cup. The Italian boss, who earned 20 caps for his country over the course of a stellar playing career, was an unused sub for the match in question 22 years ago.

“From what I remember of the game, it was tough. It put us into a knockout situation in the next game (against Norway).

“This side have the same characteristics — they still have selflessness.

You don’t beat Germany by the grace of God, or because you have a lucky day.

“You have significant ability.

“We need to be wary… This will be life and death (for the Irish side), the biggest game of their career.”

As well as talking up the significance of the match and playing down the notion of certain players in the squad being more important than others, Conte was also reticent when asked about Italy’s chances of winning Euro 2016 outright.

After beating a talented Belgium side 2-0 in their Group E opener, some critics started to tip the previously unfancied Italians as potential winners. However, Conte won’t be paying too much heed to the hype.

“It’s like they’re starting to pop champagne corks,” he said.

“Humility is part of intelligence — we have to to be humble.”

The Juventus legend also was unwilling to confirm rumours that he would make nine changes to his side for the Ireland match, drolly stating “maybe five or six” while also adding that it could be between “seven and nine”.

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Paul Fennessy

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