Sunday 22 April 2018

Conte to rest players against Ireland

Italy coach Antonio Conte Picture: AFP/Getty Images
Italy coach Antonio Conte Picture: AFP/Getty Images

Antonio Conte is planning to rest some of Italy's key players for their Group E match against the Republic of Ireland next Wednesday.

"I won't make wholesale changes. I will pick a side to win the match, but also to rest players," said the Italian head coach.

Ireland's supporters can be guaranteed to present a bank of green shirts in Lille and Conte wants the Italian fans to display a similar phalanx of blue.

The Swedish supporters were much more visible in Toulouse, prompting Conte to declare: "I want our fans to put on a blue shirt. When you see the other side all in yellow it is wonderful.

"It does not have to be the official team shirt - a normal blue tee shirt if you will - but it would be great for players to see that. We have 9,000 fans here but they looked quite dispersed."

Conte is hoping that qualifying for the knockout stages will fill his players with confidence.

Italy have fallen at the group stage in three of the last six tournaments they have contested and they hadn't won their second match since Euro 2000.

"Everyone was anxious in the first half. There were skeletons in the closet, phantoms, ghosts from the past, that affected their performance," he said.

"The group feels the burden of representing the country, particularly at a tricky time for the country.

"Winning breeds confidence and self-esteem. I hope these two wins will raise our confidence. At the start (of Euro 2016), they were a bit flat, like flat tyres. We are trying to pump them up each game.

"Now we have qualified with a game to play. Who would have said that beforehand? We should be very pleased. A lot of people did not think we would get out of the group."

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