Belfast Telegraph

Conte leads the applause for brave Italian warriors

Italy 2 - Spain 0

By Phil Blanche

In Antonio Conte, Chelsea may have found a manager as quotable as Jose Mourinho. Having secured another 90 minutes in his current role as coach to the Italian national team, Conte was effusive about his team's 2-0 dethroning of the defending champions.

Revealing he clapped the team when they entered the dressing room he said: "I applauded them because they did something fantastic tonight.

"They are great men and wonderful footballers. I want to congratulate them. It was a great performance. I am pleased this is a team that plays football.

"Often people just think that Italy are a defensive side, but that is not the case. I don't coach people to play counter-attack."

Graziano Pelle sealed Italy's place in the quarter-finals with a stoppage-time strike.

After Giorgio Chiellini's first-half opener, the Italians had survived a scare moments earlier when Gianluigi Buffon saved superbly to deny Gerard Pique an equaliser. Having beaten the European champions Italy now play the World champions.

"We need the players to be 130 per cent against Germany," said Conte. "We will need something absolutely extraordinary, as simply extraordinary may not be enough."

Germany have never beaten Italy in a competitive match but Conte cautioned: "I think we are playing the best side bar none but when the going gets tough we tend to respond."

Belfast Telegraph