Jun 24, 2016

    Weird to face Spain when we top group: Conte


    ITALY'S 1-0 defeat by Ireland in their last Group E match will not affect the morale of the squad ahead of the last-16 game against defending champions Spain, coach Antonio Conte noted on Wednesday.

    "There is no reason to be anxious," he said at a news conference after a game in which he made eight changes from the team who defeated Sweden knowing that Italy had finished top of the group.

    Conte played down the loss, saying it was undeserved and was partly caused by the bad condition of the pitch which he believed favoured the more physical style of the Irish.

    In the last two European Championships, Italy lost in the final to Spain in 2012 and were knocked out in the quarter-finals by the Spaniards in 2008.

    "We will have to play one of the favourite teams of the tournament," Conte said.

    "It's weird to be on top of the pool and having to face Spain, then maybe Germany and maybe France.

    "It's a bit of a problematic route but these are the rules," he said.

    But the Italy manager, who will be Chelsea's coach next season, remains confident.

    "Spain is one of the strongest teams in the world but the pitch will do the talking," he added.