Italy boss Antonio Conte admits only “something extraordinary” will be enough to beat Spain in Monday’s last-16 clash at Euro 2016.
Spain have the upper hand on Italy in each of the last two European Championships, most notably beating the Azzurri 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final, and Conte is under no illusions as to the task facing his side at Stade de France in Paris.
“We know that we are facing one of the best teams in the world, one of the favourites for the tournament and we have a great deal of respect,” he said at a Press conference.
“Having said that, we have worked hard and prepared for this. It’s a Round of 16 clash, a knockout round, for one of the two sides there will be no tomorrow and therefore the response on the field will be everything.
“Since the start we’ve said that we don’t want regrets. We must give our all in every game. If the opponents prove themselves stronger on the day, then we’ll be the first to applaud them. If they don’t, then I want us to get the victory.
“It’s not as if you’re waiting for a game like this to try something that has never been done. We must win the game all together, in attack when we have the ball and trying to hurt Spain.
“I hear a lot of talk about defence, defence, defence, watching out for Morata, Nolito, Iniesta, etc. Let’s make sure Spain have to worry about defending against us, first and foremost.
“Our strength is in organisation, both when defending and attacking, as a unit. Let’s try to achieve something extraordinary, because it would be an achievement.”
“I think defeats always bring something more in terms of determination and concentration. I would’ve preferred a ‘softer’ Spain who were coming off a series of wins.
“We analysed their defeat to Croatia and it was an odd game, as Spain could’ve finished them off in the first half and confirmed all their quality in possession, passing and movement.
“I expect a strong opponent, we know all that, but having said that we are prepared. We’re not here to be bit-part players.
“If we just focus on reason, we will lose. We have to look beyond that and find something extraordinary, because tomorrow the ordinary will not be enough. I am convinced we have the players who can do that.”
“The lads are in good shape, I know they are extraordinary and prepared to play all our cards in what is an uphill struggle. We want to have our say and I am convinced we’ll do it tomorrow too.
“Nothing is impossible, otherwise it’d be too easy and you’d take away the spice of uncertainty in football and life. You’d take away the desire to work, prepare and fight to overcome the odds in a seemingly unbalanced encounter.
“I don’t want to go home tomorrow and neither do my players. We are not here to be Spain’s sacrificial lambs. We will be the first to congratulate Spain if they qualify, but they’ve got to earn it first.
“I think systems are numbers, but then a Coach has to mould them to the characteristics of his players. I think it is important to study teams, understand their strengths and weaknesses, using every weapon in the armoury to hurt them.”