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Conte vows Italy will not let up

Antonio Conte is refusing to get carried away by Italy’s impressive start to Euro 2016 and will not tinker with his side for Friday’s clash with Sweden.

The Azzurri produced arguably the performance of the tournament so far in beating Belgium 2-0 on Monday to put themselves in pole position to qualify from Group E.

But Conte, who will leave his post to take over at Chelsea for the start of next season, insists there will be no let up from his side in Toulouse.

“I think the squad I’m working with is full of focused, determined individuals intent on doing things properly,” he said.

“I firmly believe that one game won’t change their attitude. We had a good start against Belgium, we played well, but we’re not getting carried away. We have another tough game on Friday and we’re focused on that.

“We’ve only played once so we haven’t had to manage the players’ energy levels. We’ve had four days to recover and train. We had to rest but also prepare for Sweden.

“But I think it’s a bit early to talk about players being tired. I will assess the players’ fitness but I do not envisage making changes in order to rotate or rest players.”

Sweden were poor for the majority of their 1-1 draw with the Republic of Ireland at the Stade de France, Ciaran Clark nodding in Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s cross to salvage a point for Erik Hamren’s men.

Yet Conte saw little to suggest Italy will find it easy against Ibrahimovic and Co.

“We’ve seen a number of matches that were very even, so you really appreciate that every game is very tough,” he added.

“We saw that with France again on Wednesday night. The games are even right until the end. They’re not only very even, every side is also preparing very well for them. You just need to focus on what you’re doing, analysing your opponents’ strengths and weakness, and like this, you can reach your first target, namely the last 16.”

Graziano Pelle scored the second goal against Belgium and Conte reserved special praise for the Southampton centre-forward, despite his circuitous route to the top.

“Graziano Pelle has had a rather interesting path,” he said.

“He had to go abroad to break into the national side. In Italy, he wasn’t playing much. He was always on the bench at Parma before moving to Holland. Clearly, coming up against different players in different leagues, and working very hard, has helped turn him into an excellent forward with terrific physical attributes.

“It’s a little odd that he had to move abroad to make his name – the opposite is often true – but he took a different route and it’s worked out for him. I’m happy for him because it shows that taking on challenges helps in life. Moving abroad has been the making of him.”

Sweden’s main dangerman will be the irrepressible Ibrahimovic and Conte is a fan of the former Inter and Barcelona striker.

“I think Zlatan is a great player, a top player, and he could play in any league in the world,” he said.

“I see no reason why he couldn’t make an impact anywhere. He’s a terrific player. Sweden are a decent side with a true superstar so we have to be very careful.”

Thu 16 Jun, 2016
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