Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci hailed coach Antonio Conte as “the master” after a 2-0 victory at the Stade de France dumped defending champions Spain out of Euro 2016.
Bonucci scooped the man-of-the-match award after fellow centre-back Giorgio Chiellini opened the scoring in the 33rd minute and Graziano Pelle crowned a stunning triumph in stoppage time.
Conte was an animated figure on the touchline throughout and played a full part in euphoric celebrations when Pelle smashed home to confirm his superb tactical plan would be rewarded with a quarter-final against world champions Germany.
“Mr Conte is important as a coach that is able to really implement a game plan. He is more important in every match,” said Bonucci of his former Juventus boss who will depart to manage Chelsea at the end of the tournament.
“I think that this process that started two years ago is absolutely essential. This national side is shorn of great talent so we have to come together as a team
“We have to have a playing style and I think that Antonio Conte really is the master in this area.”
Conte professed his amazement at his players finding new levels to impress him during a post-match interview and Bonucci hopes for a repeat situation versus Germany in Bordeaux on Saturday.
“We hope that will be the same instance post-match following the next game,” he added. “It will be a huge game against the reigning world champions.
“They’ve got great players, they are a great unit but, as the coach has said, we need to be 23 men and 23 dreamers.
“Tonight we dreamed the match and played it in that fashion. There was a lot of desire to play football.
“Spain pressed us high a lot in the second half and we struggled to play our way out.
“But on the pitch, this team – not just a collection of players or a national side – this team deserved to go through and now we must focus on Germany.”