Thursday 12 December 2019

Antonio Conte gives one reason why Ireland should be fearful ahead of Euro 2016 showdown

Italy's head coach Antonio Conte during the walk around on the pitch. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
Italy's head coach Antonio Conte during the walk around on the pitch. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

John Brennan

Italian manager Antonio Conte has praised his Irish opponents in tomorrow's Euro 2016 group game - but then turned his fire on UEFA as he slated the Lille pitch on which his team will play.

However, any talk of Italy taking their foot off the gas was dismissed by Conte, despite the fact that he will rest players tomorrow night.

"You don't beat Germany by the Grace of God," said the man who will take over as Chelsea boss next month. "You don't do it with a bit of luck. Ireland are fighting for their lives tomorrow night, so we have to be ready."

But if Conte was well disposed to the green shirts, the green sward on which his team will play them did not meet with a calm eye.

"It is not of the standard you expect for a European Championship match," he said witheringly. "And that is a pity because this tournament has been well organised, but this is not right."

UEFA confirmed soon afterwards that the pitch will be replaced in time for the Round of 16 match at the stadium next Sunday and the quarter-final that will follow it.

But Ireland and Italy will have to get on with the lottery of playing on a very poor surface in this huge game for Ireland.

Conte confirmed he would make changes for the game that is only a dead rubber to Italy who are assured of topping Group E.

He didn't confirm how many, but Conte did say that one will be to rest goalkeeper GianLuigi Buffon, his captain and the last survivor of Italy's World Cup winning side of a decade ago.

However he warned the Irish players and fans that his team are going out to win the match. "We want to take that winning momentum into the knock-out matches," added Conte.

"I give Ireland the example of last October. We qualified for the Euros with a game to spare. That was against Norway who had to win to go through. But we won 1-0. That sent Norway into a play-off and they lost it. So they are not here. We are out to win tomorrow."

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